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JFK, Harry, Potter

Heroes: A Normal Life, Chapter Two: "Mens Rea"

Posted on 2010.08.12 at 08:19
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Tags: , ,
Title:"Heroes: A Normal Life"
Chapter: 2/7 ("Mens Rea")
Fandom: Heroes
Characters: Matt Parkman, Daphne Millbrook, Claire Bennet, Angela Petrelli, Arthur Petrelli, Peter Petrelli
Rating: PG-13 (Adult language, adult situations, violence)
Word count: 6087
Disclaimer: see below



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DISCLAIMER: THIS MATERIAL INCLUDES CHARACTERS COPYRIGHTED BY NBC STUDIOS WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM SAID COMPANY. THE STORY IS NOT INTENDED FOR SALE BY THE AUTHOR. CHARACTERS NOT SUBJECT TO COPYRIGHT BY NBC STUDIOS ARE THE EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY OF THE AUTHOR.



CHAPTER TWO: MENS REA


(This chapter takes place during "IT'S COMING.")


2: MENS REA

"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all..."
- Hamlet (3.1.90)



Things are getting complicated for Daphne Millbrook.

Daphne has never felt this strongly about anyone, about anything. This feeling is exciting, even a bit scary. It makes her want to ignore every questionable impulse, to reinvent herself, to deserve it. And it casts her unworthiness in high relief.

Recently, Daphne has run the gamut of emotions from bliss to horror, elation to despair. She almost misses the numbing comfort of detachment, a chrysalis that shielded her from those parts of life she was neither prepared nor inclined to deal with. But Daphne is no longer the cheerfully amoral pixie who made the world her oyster. She wishes she could wrap herself in that chrysalis again, emerge as someone braver, someone stronger. Instead she has to live with the person she is.

In the past year-and-a-half she has stolen a few hundred things, broken a few hundred laws, with nary a qualm. But it was only stealing; nobody got hurt. This job is different. Now she has seen a man killed right in front of her. Now she's a spy, betraying a sweet, wonderful person, a man without a malicious bone in his body. No job has ever made her feel so reprehensible, so empty, so sinful. The idea of betraying Matt is abhorrent, but the idea of putting Matt's life in danger is absolute anathema.

For now, Daphne hopes fitful exhilaration sustains her until the moment she stabs the man she loves in the back - the act that will push her beyond the event horizon.

*  *  *

Matt's desk is cluttered with papers, writing implements, and other various  objects. To an outsider (that is, anyone who isn't Matt) it looks a shambles, but he insists that there's order within the chaos. Somehow, he has managed to find a map of New York.

"Where's Hartsdale?" asks Daphne.

"Upstate New York," says Matt.

"You've been?"

"Last year."

Daphne is pacing, trying to ignore her anxiety. "How do you find anything in that mess?"

"I have a system."

"A system?" Daphne picks up a spiral notebook, leafs through it for a moment before tossing it back. "It's like a stationery store threw up on your desk."

Matt grabs the notebook, not looking up from the map. "Love me, love my mess."

Daphne smiles. She loves the way Matt makes her smile so easily. The way he makes her feel just by being near her. It's new, and it's scary.

She looks at the framed photo on the desk, picks it up.

"Molly?"

Matt glances up. "Yep."

Daphne replaces the photo. "She's cute."

"Got it." Matt traces the route with a pink highlighter. "Major Deegan to I-87, Central Park Ave. About an hour, depending on traffic."

Daphne smirks. "Traffic?"

Matt flips to a random page and starts scribbling. "Traffic, as in 'other cars.'"

"Not a problem." Daphne sidles up to him. "We'll take the Daphne Express."

Matt stands and dons his jacket. "What, you're gonna carry me?"

"Actually, I kinda pull you along with me."

Matt tears the page from the notebook, folds the map around it, and stuffs the map in his jacket pocket. "You 'pull me along?' How does that work?"

"I don't know how it works, it just does." She hooks his arm with hers. "Ready?"

"Umm...no?"

"Don't worry, I've done this a million times. You'll be fine."

"It's just..."

"Just what?"

"I'm not sure I'm built to withstand high velocities."

"You'll be fine," says Daphne. "I told you, there's nothing--"

Matt looks away for a moment, then again at Daphne, and she realizes the reason for his trepidation. She has asked him to trust her with his life.

Daphne puts her hands on Matt's shoulders and looks him straight in the eye. "Matt, I would never hurt you. I could never hurt you."

"Don't worry, Daph," he says. "I believe you."

Matt's words turn Daphne's blood to ice. Try as she might to defy her instinct for self-preservation, crushing dread overrides every emotion, every thought.

She knows Matt believes her. It breaks her heart.

So Matt is puzzled when he sees a single tear fall from her eye.

"What's wrong, Daph?"

It's all she can do to avoid collapsing into endless weeping. "Nothing..."

Matt touches Daphne's cheek tenderly, slowly brushes the tear away with his thumb. Daphne blushes, smiling shyly.

"So, do I need a helmet?" Matt says.

Daphne giggles. She wants to jump into his arms and kiss him, but she doesn't. "No, you don't need a helmet. But you might want to keep your mouth closed."

She snorts at Matt's bemused expression.

"Trust me, picking bugs out of your teeth isn't much fun. I learned the hard way."

"How am I supposed to scream with my mouth closed?"

Daphne leans over and whispers in Matt's ear, "You won't have time to scream."

"That's reassuring...I guess." Matt breathes deeply, exhales and straightens his jacket. "Ok, just tell me what--"

Before Matt can finish his sentence, he and Daphne are in front of the Primatech building. He feels dull tickles in the back of his throat and doubles over, coughing, gagging, spitting.

Daphne pats him on the back. "Matt! You okay?"

Matt feels nauseous, looks like he's been through a wind tunnel. "Nothing a few hours of gargling won't cure."

"Swallowed a bug, didn't you?"

Still bent over, Matt looks up and nods. "Several."

"I'm sorry," Daphne says. "But I did tell you to keep your mouth closed."


*  *  *

Inside Primatech Research, Matt and Daphne follow a sequence of nondescript hallways on a seemingly futile search for signs of life. The concrete walls are painted beige with a band of that tacky blue-green shade apparently exclusive to hospitals and insane asylums. An eerie resonance haunts the corridors: an aura of indignation, anguish, fright; perhaps the restless ghosts of the facility's former "guests". Otherwise, they're alone.

Panicked questions sprout in Daphne's head. Did Arthur do this? Did he kill everybody? Is he waiting for them too?

Then it occurs to her: A person as powerful as Arthur acts with impunity; he answers to nobody. He wouldn't bother getting rid of the bodies.

Daphne is doing her job, obeying her orders. As long as she serves a purpose and doesn't make waves, she has no reason to worry. She only has to worry about Matt.

They check room after room, finding nothing but stale air and empty beds, when Matt stops in his tracks and fixes on something near the end of the hall. He takes off without a word, ducks into a room three-quarters of the way down. Daphne follows tentatively.

She finds Matt standing over a bed where a middle-aged woman lies catatonic, hooked up to an EEG. Whoever she is, she has Matt's attention.

"Who is that?"
"Angela Petrelli."

Petrelli...Arthur's wife.

Matt tilts his head and attempts to probe the woman's mind, but he is rebuffed by a psychic force field. He staggers back but quickly recovers, determined to try again. It feels like a grenade went off in his skull but he refuses to back down. Courage is one of Matt's most admirable qualities, but this time it might just get him killed. If Arthur Petrelli did this to his own wife, he won't think twice about doing worse to them. Daphne's pretty sure that she's safe, but she's not sure enough. Under the pretense of finding a nurse, she races off to Pinehearst. Not only has Daphne lied to Matt again, she's about to rat him out.

*  *  *

Arthur Petrelli is like a black hole: an infinite, inescapable void, absorbing every trace of light near him. His eyes are cold and unforgiving, his stare like the gaze of a basilisk. Indeed, Daphne is grateful that Arthur does not deign to face her.

After she delivers her report like a good little spy, Daphne manages to beat back her apprehension and stammers an ill-advised inquiry about his wife. When Arthur replies that Mrs. Petrelli will be fine, he sounds as though he's talking about a fly caught in a spider's web. Maybe he is.

Daphne takes a deep breath, steels her nerves the best she can, and implores Arthur to spare Matt. He callously responds by threatening to return her to her "former life", and the meager quantity of courage she managed to gather crumbles like old plaster. Daphne reluctantly accepts her assignment, forgoing thoughts of defiance, and races back to Primatech with such unearthly speed that she sets the asphalt ablaze.

Daphne rushes back to Angela's room where Matt is sitting next to the woman's bed. Matt says he has to help her, go into her head. She wants to stop him, pull him away from Angela, take him into the mountains or to some secluded cabin, far removed from this nightmare.

Having managed to break into Mrs. Petrelli's psychic prison, Matt is sitting in a chair next to the bed, motionless save for the occasional fluttering eyelid...

"Daphne, no..."

And then she sees the blood oozing from Matt's stomach. Daphne manages to reign in the visceral explosion of shock and panic, presses against the wound...

Arthur Petrelli, that bastard Arthur Petrelli, he must be doing it. Why did she ever get mixed up with him?

Daphne doesn't care about Arthur's threats now, doesn't even think about what he might do to her. No fear, no hesitation, because she has no choice. Either she helps Matt or he dies.

She tries to wake him up. There's no response, only more blood, and she can't stop it. Whatever is happening, whatever Arthur's doing to him, it's in his head.

Over and over Daphne begs Matt to bring her in. She doesn't know what will happen or if it's even possible, but she knows it's the only chance he's got.

She notices something in Matt's eye, like a reflection, but clearer, undistorted. She looks deeper and sees a corridor, one person lying face-up on the floor, another person crouching beside him...

She feels a jolt as she's pulled into the dream. It takes a moment for Daphne to realize where she is. And then she sees Matt on the floor...

Daphne crouches next to him, but he scrambles away from her. She tries to convince Matt that she's there to help, but Arthur reveals her subterfuge. Daphne stands agape, helpless as Arthur plays Iago to her Desdemona, and when she sees the look on Matt's face she feels a hot rush of shame. Somehow, Daphne knows she has to own up to her deception, to speak candidly about her actions and, more importantly, her feelings. Her words spill out desperately even as Arthur attempts to undermine them. She hopes Matt believes her, understands her, forgives her. When Daphne tells Matt that she loves him, he knows she's telling the truth. Miraculously, a quantity of sentiment penetrates the dark carapace that encompasses Arthur's heart. And he lets them go.

When they return to the waking world, Daphne clings to Matt like a frightened kitten. She is trembling and disoriented, her pupils dilated. Matt strokes her hair, kisses her forehead.

"Breathe, Daphne."

Daphne squeezes her eyelids shut and holds Matt tighter. "Thank God you're okay. I don't know what I would have done..."

"Shhh," Matt says. "It's over. We're safe now."

"We're not safe. You don't know-"

Matt pulls back, takes her hands in his. "Daphne..."

She looks up at him, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"If Arthur wanted to kill us, he would have done it already."

"But we're nothing to him."

"Exactly. He has other priorities."

Daphne wraps her arms around Matt again, holding on with all her strength. "Matt, I'm scared."

"I'll protect you."

"How, Matt? How will you protect me?"

Seeing Daphne's tears is like the worst kind of torture, makes Matt's metaphysical stabbing pleasant by comparison, but he manages to channel his empathy into bravery.

"I'll do whatever it takes. I would give my life for you."

Daphne sobs, burying her face in his shoulder. "I'm not worth it."

"You're worth it to me."

Daphne closes her eyes, breathes deeply and feels the tension begin to dissipate. She still hasn't quite found her bearings, but in this uncertain place he is her mooring, the only thing she knows is real.

*  *  *

A few moments later, Peter confronts them in the corridor and says that Daphne "can't be trusted." Matt immediately comes to her defense, and although she suspects that Matt's reaction involves more than protecting his woman's honor, Daphne feels a jolt of elation.

But when Angela mentions the stolen formula, a glance from Matt tells Daphne that he knows she's responsible.

Matt knows she was working for Pinehearst. He had to know she wasn't selling Girl Scout cookies. Still...

After the impromptu strategy meeting breaks up, Daphne finds Matt, smiles and takes his hands. "What now?"

"I need to talk to Mrs. Petrelli," Matt says. His tone is hurried; his expression, impassive.

"Oh, okay." Daphne reluctantly pulls her hands away. "I'll just wait out in the hall."

Matt nods and goes to find Angela.

"Love you," says Daphne, but he doesn't hear her.

Daphne trudges into the hall. She can't stop thinking about the blank expression on Matt's face, his curtness, his lack of affect. Looking up, she sees Peter and Claire heading toward the elevators at the far end of the corridor. Before they can take another step, Daphne is standing in front of them.

"Peter? I need to ask you..."

Claire freezes in her tracks. "What the hell?"

"Oh, I'm sorry." The speedster smiles sheepishly. "I'm Daphne."

Claire looks her up and down with suspicion. "...Hi."

"Hi...Claire, right?"

"Right..."

Daphne abandons the affable front and speaks ruefully. "I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

Claire sighs with resignation. "Don't worry about it."

"Thanks," says Daphne. Claire nods.

"Ahem."

Daphne looks over slowly and sees Peter, arms folded and looking annoyed. She closes her eyes and laughs nervously.

"Um, do you have a minute...?"

"I'll call Dad," says Claire.

Daphne smiles gratefully. The cheerleader returns the smile and heads through the double doors.

"What do you want?"

"Huh--?"

"What do you need to ask me?" Peter's voice is frosty. "You said--"

"Oh, I...about what you said to Matt. That I can't be trusted."

"You're working for my father."

"I'm not," says Daphne. "Not any more."

Peter eyes the speedster warily. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I..." Daphne narrows her eyes. "Wait, what do you mean?"

"Four years from now, you're still with Pinehearst. You and your team attack me, my brother."

"My 'team'? What are you talking about, what team?"

"Pinehearst!" Peter glares savagely. "You're working for my dad. You try to kill me."

"I'm a thief. I don't kill people--"

"You killed a little boy."

"That's impossible, I couldn't..."

"I saw it happen!"

She shakes her head defiantly. "I don't believe you."

"You don't have to believe me," says Peter. "It's the truth."

Daphne starts to feel vaguely nauseous. "This...what you saw...it was like some kind of a spirit walk, right?"

"Spirit walk? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Like...a dream...or something?"

"No, it wasn't a fucking dream!" His face is inches from Daphne's. "I was there! I saw you. I saw it all."

Daphne takes a step back. "So you're like Hiro Nakamura? You can do what he can do?"

Peter laughs. "Not anymore. Remember?"

Daphne nods slowly. She can still hear Peter's screams.

"What...else did you see?"

"Everybody has powers," says Peter. "That's what my dad wants, what he's trying to do."

"It's that bad?"

"People die because of it, thousands of people. Entire cities are wiped out. So, yes, it is that bad. Do you get it now?"

Daphne can barely speak. "I didn't know..."

"Well, now you do."

"But I'm not a killer! I'm not capable--"

Peter smirks. "Maybe you updated your skill set."

Daphne struggles to hold back tears. "But I wouldn't! I could never--"

She sees Claire approaching in her periphery, says, "I could never hurt a little boy! I couldn't kill anyone!"

Peter glances at Claire. "I hope not."

Daphne backs up to the wall and slides down, hugs herself to keep from shaking. She watches with teary eyes as Peter and Claire walk away, continues watching as they board the elevator. All this back and forth is making her dizzy, and she still doesn't know who she is. Is Peter right about her? Is Matt still convinced that she's "good"?

Daphne's instincts always tell her to run, to avoid conflict, to isolate herself. It's what she does. What she's always done.

Now she gets it. She's not a good person. She's a coward. Matt is better off without her.

Daphne stands and takes one last look down the hallway. It lasts longer than she'd intended, nearly becoming a vigil. And although it hurts like hell, she forces herself to turn away and looks towards the elevator instead. The way out of the insanity. Her escape.

But she doesn't move.

Running has always kept her safe, kept her occupied, but never made her happy, the transitory endorphin notwithstanding. Maybe she doesn't deserve to be happy.

But why not? What will happen if she doesn't run? Maybe she shouldn't. Maybe it's the only way...

"Ready?"

Daphne nearly jumps through the ceiling. She's rarely taken by surprise, but somehow she didn't notice Matt approaching.

"Y-yeah," Daphne says, as calmly as she can manage.

"You okay, Daph?"

"I'm fine, considering." She smiles faintly. "You just startled me."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean--"

"It's all right. I was just thinking."

"About anything in particular...?"

"You know...stuff."

Matt raises an eyebrow. "What kinda stuff?" he asks.

"Just 'stuff' stuff."

Matt frowns, rubs his chin. "Hmm."

It's starting to feel like an interrogation. "It's nothing, really. Just..."

Matt gazes at her solemnly. "Hmmmmm..."

"What?"

"'Stuff' stuff, eh?" he says, still playing it straight.

Daphne feels a giggle fit coming on and bites her lip. "Exactly."

Matt sighs and shakes his head.

"Come on, what?"

He looks at her balefully. "Oh, Daphne..."

Daphne bites harder, nearly breaking the skin. "Matt!"

"Daphne, Daphne, Daphne..."

Daphne goes over the edge, bends over in soundless, paroxysmal laughter.

Matt's smile belies his detective act. "What's so funny?"

Daphne hits Matt weakly on the shoulder, laughing loudly now. She tries to tell him to stop but she can't form the words. He's making it worse and he knows it.

Matt cups his ear. "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?"

Daphne manages to catch her breath. "Cut it out!"

"Cut what out?"

"That!" Daphne muffles Matt with her hands, still panting.

"Mmmff!"

"Do you promise to behave?"

"Mmm-hmmf."

"Okay." Daphne draws back her hands.

"Thmk yff."

"Matt!"

Matt assumes a defensive pose as she reaches towards him. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry! I'll stop now, promise!"

"You'd better!"

Daphne isn't the least bit annoyed; on the contrary, she's relieved that Matt hasn't abandoned her. But she knows they shouldn't spend all night in the Primatech hallways laughing and being silly. Daphne quickly loops their arms and speeds them away.

*  *  *

Nothing gives Daphne a thrill like racing from city to city, effortlessly traversing continents and oceans. She's seen the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest, the Louvre and the Hermitage, Stonehenge and the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal and Edinburgh Castle, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building, all in the same day.

She never stays in one place for very long. She has to keep moving, keep running. Has to keep her body active, her mind occupied, her senses stimulated.

Keep moving. Keep running.

It's all she's known for the last year and a half. She's not accustomed to moving like a normal person. So she's surprised by how much she's enjoying this leisurely stroll with Matt. After everywhere she's been and everything she's seen, there's nothing she'd rather be doing right now.

"I'm glad you enjoyed the movie."

"I did. It was sad, but uplifting."

"Bittersweet," says Daphne.

"That's the word," says Matt. "After all those years as a bureaucrat, the man finally accomplished something meaningful. Sad that he had to face his own mortality first."

"I guess everybody's searching for a purpose." Matt's words echo in Daphne's head. Something meaningful..

"I don't really watch many foreign films because of, you know, the dyslexia thing. I need subtitles for the subtitles."

Daphne gently squeezes Matt's hand. She can't help but feel a little sad for him. "My idea worked pretty well though, right?"

"It did," says Matt. "Terrific idea."

Daphne smirks. "I thought so."

Matt gives Daphne a peculiar look.

"It helps that you process subtitles so quickly," he says.

"It helps that you're a mind reader."

Matt chuckles. "True."

Daphne looks up at Matt and smiles. Her gaze feels like a caress.

"Hi," she says.

Matt smiles back, almost as a reflex. "Hi."

Daphne giggles. Matt puts his arm around her shoulder and pulls her closer.

"I'm hungry," he says. "Are you hungry?"

"I am starving."

"Do you like pizza? There's a place a couple blocks down."

"I do like pizza," says Daphne. "But I..."

"You're vegan?"

Daphne looks up at Matt suspiciously.

"It's all right," he says. "They do vegan."

The speedster cocks her head, squinting."How did you know I was vegan?"

"The soy milk. Saw it in the fridge."

"Oh," says Daphne, a note of relief in her voice.

"You thought I used my 'brain mojo thingy,' huh?"

Daphne nods. "Yeah, well..."

"I am a detective, you know," Matt says. "We tend to notice things."

"Things like soy milk?" Daphne asks, grinning.

Matt laughs. "Especially things like soy milk."

"Funny," says Daphne, "I've never seen that on Law & Order."

"It's a new spin-off," Matt says. "Law & Order: Special Kitchens Unit."

Daphne stops, barely suppressing another fit of laughter. "Stop doing that, or we'll never get to the restaurant!"

*  *  *

The pizzeria is nearly empty. Except for the young couple in the corner booth and the group of texting teenagers in the back, Matt and Daphne are alone.

"You're serious?"

"Yep," Daphne mumbles mid-chew.

"You're saying you stole the Mona Lisa?"

Daphne sips her iced tea. "Yep."

"The Mona Lisa?"

"Yes. The Mona Lisa."

"Seriously?"

"I had help." Daphne grabs a napkin. "But yes, seriously."

"And it's hanging in your apartment?"

"Yep. You want the last slice?"

"What? Yeah, go ahead."

Daphne smiles, grabs the remaining wedge. "Thanks, sweetie."

Matt shakes his head, wearing an incredulous smile. "Why...why would you even consider such a thing?"

"Because I could," Daphne replies, eyes flashing as she enthusiastically tears off a bite with her teeth.

Matt can't help smiling, but manages to stay focused. "Just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should do it."

"I know, I know." Daphne wipes her mouth with the napkin. "It's who I was then."

"Who were you then?"

"A thief," Daphne says, as if it's the most obvious thing in the world.

Matt chews a piece of crust. "How'd you get that way?"

Daphne looks down at her plate. "Survival instinct. I did what I had to do."

"So," says Matt, swallowing first. "Your first instinct was to be a thief?"

"No!" Daphne flushes when she sees Matt's surprised expression, and surveys the room at super-speed. Satisfied that the young couple and the texting teens failed to notice her exclamation, she continues in a modulated voice. "I tried walking the straight and narrow. I couldn't hack it. Stealing was just...easier."

"The path of least resistance."

Daphne feels the conversation turning distinctly more serious than the playful inquiry at Primatech. "Is this why you want me around, Matt? So you can feel morally superior?"

"Of course not," says Matt. "Don't be silly."

Daphne glowers. "You could have fooled me."

"Daphne..."

"I made mistakes, okay?" The speedster's eyes are narrowed and watery, but she feels too indignant to cry. "I may be fast, but I'm still human."

"Exactly." Matt pushes his plate away. "You're not a thief."

Daphne looks down again. "I am a thief."

"No, you're not. Like you said, you're a human being."

"Who steals stuff. You're just splitting hairs."

"It isn't who you are."

"So, you've been reading my mind?" Daphne says with an angry smirk.

"I didn't have to." Matt carefully takes her hand, relieved when she doesn't pull it away. "I'm a detective. But you knew the truth long before you met me."

"The truth is I'm a thief. I stole."

"What did you steal? Bottle of wine, loaf of bread, some poor chump's wallet? And then what? Gold, jewels, paintings in a museum?"

"What's your point, Matt?"

Matt leans in. "You weren't stealing to survive, Daph. You were stealing to fill that hole in your heart."

Daphne says nothing,only watches him with moistening eyes.

"But you still felt it, right? The emptiness? That stuff you stole, it's still in your apartment. You don't care about it. You kept the one thing that actually meant something to you."

A tear rolls down Daphne's cheek. "Mom's medal..."

Matt smiles. "See?"

"But it doesn't matter," Daphne says, sniffling.

"What doesn't matter?"

Daphne hides her eyes. "It doesn't matter how I felt about it. Doesn't matter what anybody calls me. It doesn't change anything. I still did it. That's who I am."

Matt wants to scoop up Daphne in his arms and carry her away, but it's not what she needs right now.

"Do you still want to be that person? I don't think you do."

The speedster shakes her head, sends tears flying.

"So...?"

"I'm really screwed up, aren't I?"

"Everybody's screwed up in their own way," says Matt. "I certainly have my imperfections."

Daphne rubs her face against Matt's hand. "You're the best person I've ever known."

"Thank you, sweetie." Matt tenderly caresses her cheek. "I try."

Daphne smiles, her eyes shining through her tears. She sits back, picks up a straw.

"So," says Daphne, tearing off the end of the wrapper, "I guess I'm an 'ex-thief' now?"

"Why not just be 'Daphne?'"

Daphne nods. "That works too."

The speedster blows into the straw, launching the wrapper across the table where it hits Matt in the chest and drops into his lap.

Matt looks down at the projectile, then back at a grinning Daphne. "I take you out on the town," he says, stone-faced, "and this is the thanks I get?"

Daphne can't help breaking into laughter. Matt just watches her silently.

"What?" says Daphne.

"Nothing," says Matt. "I just love your laugh. Your smile."

The speedster looks away bashfully. Matt lowers his head to meet her eyes.

"Whaaaat?"

Matt points at her face. "You."

"What about me?"

"You're blushing."

Daphne suppresses a self-conscious titter. "So?"

"You do that a lot, you know."

"Only when I'm with you," Daphne says.

Matt laughs. "Sorry about that."

Daphne pats Matt's hand. "It's okay."

They share a smile for a moment.

"You know," Matt says, breaking the silence, "you don't strike me as a movie connoisseur."

"Why not?"

"There's not much running involved."

"Only so much running a girl can do," Daphne says.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. I watched a lot of movies. Back when I couldn't..."

"...couldn't what?"

"You know...when I couldn't run fast."

"As a kid?"

"Yeah...as a kid."

"I see," says Matt. "What else did you do...as a kid?"

"I read a lot."

"Like what?"

"Comic books," says Daphne. "And regular books, too."

"So what else? Besides reading?"

"You sure ask a lot of questions, Matt."

"Of course I do. I'm a--"

"I know, you're a detective."

"Yes," says Matt. "I am a detective. And you're the woman I love."

Daphne twirls a braid self-consciously, watching Matt with twinkling eyes.

"So...?"

"So, that's about it," says Daphne. "Not much else to do, growing up on a corn farm."

"You could always pick corn."

Daphne laughs. Matt is too funny. "No, my dad took care of that," she says. "I wasn't groomed for the family business."

"Too bad," Matt says. "You would've made the cutest farmer ever."

"Matt! Are you trying to make me blush again?"

"Maybe..."

"I don't mind," she says. "You know girls, we eat that stuff up."

Matt grins evilly. "Kinda like you wolfed down that pizza?"

Daphne throws a balled-up napkin at him.

*  *  *


They arrive at the apartment later that night with a whoosh and a flurry of papers.

Matt exhales. "I don't think I'll ever get used to that."

"You will, don't--"

He clutches his stomach and groans, bending over slightly.

"Matt!" Daphne grabs Matt's shoulders to support him. "Matt, what's wrong?"

"I'm okay." Matt straightens up. "It's just a little indigestion."

"I'm sorry," says Daphne. "We should have waited."

"It's all right." Matt unlocks the door. "We'll know better next time."

Daphne follows Matt inside. "Live and learn, eh?"

"That's right." Matt pulls Daphne into his arms. "Live and learn."

Matt leans down and places a gentle kiss on Daphne's forehead. The diminutive blond reaches up, wraps her hands behind Matt's head and pulls him towards her. Matt stumbles but Daphne catches him.

They share a brief laugh. "Let's try that again," Daphne says.

Matt steadies himself and their smiles give way, their eyes lock. Matt cradles her face and Daphne does likewise. Their lips meet, the kiss is slow, gentle. The second kiss is longer, deeper. A pause. Daphne's eyes are wide, her gaze expectant. Another kiss, and another, growing more and more intense, strung together with moans and intermittent breaths. Daphne feels a rush build in her head, race down her spine, radiating to every nerve. Matt's heart is so thumping heavily he can hear it. Daphne feels as though she's about to succumb when a flood of apprehension washes over her and compels her to pull away.

"Daphne?" asks Matt, breathing raggedly.

"I'm sorry."

"What's wrong?"

Daphne's lips tremble, but she cannot speak.

"Daph? What's--"

"Nothing, it's nothing. I just...I think we should wait."

Matt turns away, exhales with thinly-veiled frustration.

"It's just...we have a lot to do tomorrow," she says. "You know, finding Hiro Nakamura and all that."

Matt doesn't reply. What Daphne's saying is true, but it's not the truth. It's not why she pulled away.

"Matt?"

He turns around. Daphne is uncertain, fearful.

"You're right," he says. "We went through a lot today. We should get some sleep."

"I'm sorry, Matt."

"It's okay." Matt leans down and kisses her. "See you in the morning."

Daphne watches Matt walk to his bedroom. "Good night."

"Good night, Daph."

"I love you."

Matt enters the room and turns to Daphne. "I love you too."

Daphne smiles, standing in place as Matt closes the door. She feels relieved, as if afraid that Matt might not return the words. That every mistake she makes, real or imagined, might drive Matt away for good.

Daphne wipes away a tear and heads for her bedroom.

*  *  *


Eight in the morning arrives way too early. But Daphne, afraid she's on thin ice, resists the temptation to hit the snooze bar and jumps out of bed. She doesn't want to disappoint Matt.

As she takes her first step, Daphne suddenly lurches forward as if the earth had shifted beneath her. There's a buzzing in her head and the room is swimming. She decides to return to bed after all, but then the feeling passes. So she shakes it off and pushes onward.

Stretch, yawn.

Daphne enters the kitchen and sees Matt, reading the paper and sipping a cup of coffee.

"Hey, you."

"Well, well," Matt says, looking up from the paper. "Good morning, beautiful."

"Good morning yourself." Daphne rubs her eyes and yawns again. "How'd you sleep?"

Matt stands, starts walking towards her. "Pretty good. You?"

"I slept okay. I--"

Matt interrupts her with a kiss.

"--I guess."

"I know what you're up to."

Daphne knits her brows, makes a noise halfway between a chuckle and a gasp.

"What...?"

"I know what you're up to."

A chill permeates rapidly through Daphne's body. That's not Matt's voice.

"A-Arthur?!"

"You disappointed me, Daphne. You betrayed me."

"I'm sorry..."

"I'm sure you are."

"What I've seen, what you've asked of me..." Daphne is shuddering, stammering. "What you did...to Matt..."

"I warned you not to defy me."

"But they told me what happens in the future. What you're trying to do. I--"

"I will do it. And you can't stop me."

"Please! Don't take my powers away from me!"

"You don't deserve to have your powers."

"No!"

"I'm sorry, Daphne."

Daphne tries to scream, but makes no sound.

And then she realizes she's still in her bed.

Daphne jumps up, panicking, and is relieved that she is able to stand. She checks the clock on the nightstand. Four thirty-two.

She needs to test her legs.

The speedster throws on a jacket and sweats and zips out of the apartment. She runs as fast as she can, neither knowing nor caring where she's going.

Daphne eventually winds up in the middle of Central Park. It's still dark out.

She finds a bench, sits a while and contemplates. Was Arthur in her head? Was it a nightmare, a manifestation of her fear, of her guilt? Was it a premonition?

Don't be silly, Daphne tells herself. You can't see the future.

She decides it was just a bad dream, too much pizza. But it doesn't stave off the guilt and fear. And as she heads back to the apartment, Daphne feels the darkness looming.

*  *  *

At breakfast, Matt senses Daphne's uneasiness. He is loathe to intrude on her thoughts, but the nagging suspicion that Daphne's hiding something is increasingly troubling. Why is she so reticent? Is she afraid of losing his trust? Does she think she doesn't deserve it? Does she not trust him? What's going on with her?

Early afternoon. Matt's searching through notes from the Kaito Nakamura homicide for Hiro's phone number. But what's the point? How are they going to stop Arthur? Hiro's samurai posturing aside, he's no warrior. The guy's a flake. He certainly doesn't have Arthur's ruthlessness, much less his power. They don't have a chance. Arthur let them go because he knew they were no threat to him. He's a mad god. With a mere thought, he could kill them as casually as one might swat a fly. Or worse.

And if Arthur has reason to inflict his wrath upon anybody, it's her. A justifiable price for her transgressions against Matt, against Arthur. Against her mother and father.

Anxiety slowly begins to possess her. Daphne loves Matt, and she knows Matt loves her. But even with Hiro (who currently has the mind of a child) on their side, they're no match for Arthur Petrelli. This is all too scary, too unreal. It may tear her apart, but she must extricate herself from this situation. She can't deal with it. She can't be here.

Matt insists that he trusts her, that she's a good person. But when Daphne asks Matt point-blank if he trusts her, he pauses. She catches a blink, an evasive glance, a quivering brow. Fleeting microexpressions that would be imperceptible to anybody else.

Maybe Matt wants to trust Daphne. But he doesn't. And why should he? Matt doesn't know her, doesn't know who she really is. She's certainly no hero.

Daphne doesn't blame him. He can't see the darkness within her. She doesn't deserve to be with him. And Matt doesn't deserve to be burdened by her.

Disengage, Daphne, disengage. Convince yourself Matt's just a stalker with a hero complex. Maybe Angela and Peter saw the future, but Matt's just delusional. Don't let yourself get drawn into a folie à deux.

She can't be here. And there's only one place she can go.

Matt pleads with Daphne to stay, but his words fall on deaf ears. Her mind is made up. So Matt has to find out what she's thinking. He hates himself for doing it, and Daphne might too. But he has no choice. He has to understand.

Matt can pick out only a few words before Daphne realizes what he's doing. She screams at him to back off and flees before he can probe deeper, discover her secrets, learn her shame. She's somewhat indignant but mostly afraid.

Matt can't help that he has doubts. His trust has been betrayed more than once; indeed, he hasn't always been able to trust himself. But he knows Daphne wants to be a good person, to justify Matt's faith in her. And one stupid, momentary reaction may have shattered her faith in herself.

Now Daphne is out there alone and unprotected, and it's Matt's fault.

He drove her away. Now he has to get her back.



TO BE CONTINUED...

Comments:


eternal_moonie
Posted by eternal_moonie 2013-04-07 11:52 (UTC) (Link)
WOOHOO!!!!

Absolutely LOVE this chapter!!!

I get even more tingly because it is so much like a real episode with your Style! PPMS Please Post More Soon!
ebrown2112
Posted by ebrown2112 2013-04-08 20:48 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! :) The new chapter should be live any day. All six are completed, but I want my friend to look them over first. She's like my editor. :)
Sarena
Posted by sarena2s 2013-05-04 23:54 (UTC) (Link)
I love the insight into the things that happened between them off-camera. And I found it very interesting that you wrote Daphne as vegan. It made me smile.
ebrown2112
Posted by ebrown2112 2013-05-05 07:36 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. :) I thought it fit the character. Also, Brea's vegan. So there's that. :)
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