2007-07-23: Brinner In Purgatory

Starring:

Mara_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: Some people will just never act their age. Especially after serious discussions.

Date It Happened: July 23, 2007

Brinner in Purgatory


Outside Schenectady, New York

"Oh, and Nathan?" she said at the close of their conversation, "Don't bring a car. And don't wear a suit. You're still running a campaign and you're less likely to be noticed if you're in jeans like anybody else." Whether he decides to leave the car parked a mile away, or, well, use alternative methods of travel is up to him. Either way, Mara's pacing the edge of a gravel car park just off of a dirt road, around the back of a dive of an all-night diner. Where there are no windows to overlook when her dinner date arrives. Some date this'll be. Restless and constantly checking her watch, she sends frequent glances alternatively to the road, and the sky. She can listen for a vehicle just as easily as she can an aerodynamic man.

Mara and Peter, kindred spirits. In that they seem to have the ability to make Nathan drop everything and run to wherever they are. He doesn't have to be happy about it. He just knows he has to do it. It's late at night, and from his vantage point, hundreds of feet upwards, he can see the neon signs of the roadside diner illuminating the parking lot. And if he looks closer, he can see the lonely figure of Mara down below.

Nathan's descent is as fast as ever, accompanied with the almost comic-book sound of wind rushing, and the thud of feet landing on gravel. He lands just a few feet in front of Mara, spraying rock and arms flailing out to halt the short skid. But he doesn't fall over, nor stumble, and that's the main thing. Mara would completely tell Peter if he did. Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt with a casual jacket thrown over, he's even followed her advice. "Am I late?"

Mara dances back a few steps to avoid the flying pebbles and dirt that herald the arrival of one Senate Hopeful, Nathan Petrelli. "Nice," she greets dryly. "Only a little late. I'll forgive you this time." She's dressed down considerably, herself. Not that he hasn't seen her in jeans before, but generally not jeans and an Oxford sweatshirt that's seen better days… Probably better years. "You know, I swear God put this forsaken place on the map with the express intention that I would one day end up here, and it would be like purgatory for me. Schenectady. Ugh." The redhead sighs and reaches a hand out. "It's good to see you."

Nathan glances over Mara's head towards the building just behind her. Mm, real classy. This is sort of a deja vu moment. Oh, for the days when the idea of a time traveler was crazy. He takes that hand in a slightly warmer clasp than a handshake, and that's the only response Mara gets for that last part, before returning his hands into the pockets of his jacket. Denim, no less. It's as if they're both guessing as to what normal people wear. "Can't be that bad. We'll see what the coffee's like before we condemn."

"Coffee's grand here. I think the grittier the place, the better the coffee. Their waffles are to die for, too. You have to try them." Mara slowly begins to trudge around the side of the building, hands stuffed in the front pouch pocket of her sweatshirt. "This place is my shining beacon in this wasteland." Compared to the City, everything seems a wasteland. "But Schenectady, in general, is terrible. I hate it here." Wait. That implies she's been… "And with the price of gas? Getting from here to En-Why-See is getting to be the price of a small vacation fund."

"It's pushing 11 o'clock," Nathan points out, stepping ahead of her so he can open the door for them both, inwardly wincing at the sound of the bell ringing when he does so. "I'll skip late night breakfast for the sake of my soul. After you." And inside, where the fluorescent lights seem to age everyone by a few years. Neither of them barely get a glance from whatever clientele are even here at this hour, which— well, is perfect. "How long're you planning to stay out here?"

"Oi. Brinner is the best thing ever, mister," Mara jokes, stepping inside ahead of him. She grabs a booth in the corner, beneath a burnt out light. "I'll stay out here as long as they'll let-slash-make me. And by the way, if anybody asks? You don't know I'm here. And I mean anybody. Definitely don't tell Peter."

Sliding into his seat, Nathan kind of… glances over the table before tentatively folding his arms down on top of it. For growing up into wealth and fortune, he's relatively down to earth - he just has his moments of snobbery. Mara has his attention though, and he frowns a little deeper. "Fine," he says, with a hint of uncertainty. "Who's making you stay out here?" May as well cut to the chase, though a waitress comes to take their orders, delaying it a bit. Nathan mumbles something about just a coffee and waits for her to move on.

Not one to be cowed into avoiding something she wants, Mara orders a coffee and a plate of waffles before sending the waitress on her way. "Just bring us the pot," she adds as the apron-clad woman takes her leave with their orders. "They don't have real cream," she laments to Nathan. "So we'll be taking it black, right?" Avoidant much?

Avoidant a lot. Curiouser and curiouser. "Mhm," Nathan confirms, though barely even hearing her. He glances towards the waitress as she shuffles away, before turning a more piercing look towards his diner companion. "You're not back with the NYPD," he says, and that's a guess, actually, but he's not bad at poker. "Who's making you?"

"Don't… freak out." Mara presses her lips together. "And remember that we're in public, yeh?" Maybe there was a reason for this as a meeting place after all. "I'm bait," she informs him quietly. There's a grim expression she shares with him. He should know what she's getting at.

"Bait," Nathan repeats, and there is really only one thing Mara can be bait for. And because they're in public, Nathan contents himself with letting out a long and aggravated sight, leaning back in his seat. He doesn't want to ask 'who' again, so he gives her an expectant look.

"The NYPD uses words like 'undercover,' rather than bait," she offers by way of explanation. It's not much, but it seems to be all she's willing to offer at first. This may have something to do with the pot of coffee and two cups that arrive at the table. Once their waitress has left them in peace again, Mara elaborates. "I owed the Company a favour for making me disappear while my knee was busted up."

Nathan doesn't touch the coffee. Especially after that. His curious/grim expression hardens into something more guarded. "It's a bad idea to be owing them favours," he says, quietly, and glances around again, gaze stopping for half a second on those occupying the diner. Paranoid much? Man has a right to be, when all is said and done. "They're using you to find Gray. And you're letting them do that."

"I wasn't given much choice. You know what they do to people they don't believe they can control." Mara, however, pours herself a generous mug of coffee and immediately brings it to her lips, blowing on the surface gently before she takes a drink. "Unfortunately… I have reason to believe they're on the verge of discovering that I cannot be controlled."

Nathan lifts his hands as if to indicate their current surroundings. "Apparently," he says. A moment of pause, before he, too, pours himself a cup of coffee, in a sort of defeated way. "You just keep getting in trouble with everyone, don't you? If there's a way you can break from them, I suggest you find it."

"I have a fundamental problem with that," Mara murmurs around the rim of her coffee mug. "You see, they have a leak… Information is getting out to people. Information about who may or may not be detained in the Hartsdale facility under the care of one Doctor Mohinder Suresh. People like Peter may or may not be aware that certain people who have gone missing are safe, though most certainly unaware of their location…" She leans back in her booth, casual as you please. Her voice is kept quiet. This is dangerous talk, after all. "You see, my predicament is that if I decide to leave, well… That leak suddenly won't exist anymore. And the absence will surely reveal the cause." She quirks a brow, "You understand?"

"I think I'm following," Nathan says, wry, before bringing up his coffee to sip. As gritty as it is pitch black, and Nathan warms his hands around the cup, though it's not exactly a cold night. "So you stay with them," he says, voicing the hypothetical next step. "How long 'til they figure it out anyway?"

"That… I don't know." Mara shrugs. "I must look ridiculous, trying not to touch anything ever around that place… I just don't even want to know what could happen." Or worse, what has already happened in that facility. "At this point, I'm at a loss. I'm under directives from the Bishop himself." You see what I did there? With the play on the words? And the… Okay, moving on. "But it's been quiet, and I suspect I'll be returning to the City again either when they decide Schenectady is even too backwater for Gray, or when they find evidence of him elsewhere."

Nathan's jaw seems to clench a little at the name Bishop, for reasons he opts to keep to himself, gaze returning to his coffee. "Ironic that you find a decent hiding spot when they start waving the word 'bait' around," he mutters, almost to himself, and shakes his head. "Maybe it's not such a bad idea if it ends in them taking this bastard down, for once, but I don't like the thought of them risking your life because you owe…" And he tilts his head a little when something familiar comes on the tinny-sounding radio - oh. That.

On the radio, the last song fades, crossing into… An advertisement. It's some serious hiphop bumper music, surrounding soundbites - "Nathan Petrelli. A man of principle. A man of vision - a choice for change in a state that needs leadership. Vote Petrelli - Seriously fly." (paid for by the Inner City Coalition to Elect Nathan Petrelli.) "My name is Nathan Petrelli, and I approve this message."

Nathan rubs the bridge of his nose in irritation. "Thought they'd stopped running that one."

It takes Mara a moment, but she hears the radio a few bars into the hiphop beat. Talk about a bit of an awkward moment. But it does at least lighten the situation a touch. She shoots Nathan a quirky smile and leans in to ask conspiratorially, "Did you really approve that message?"

Nathan rolls his eyes a little, then visibly winces when… here it comes… yeah. Seriously fly. He leans back into the booth, just as Mara leans forward, to shrink down an inch, but no one in the diner seems particularly interested in what's on the radio - though the coffee-bearing waitress does cast a glance their way. "Technically yes," he says, raising an eyebrow at her and gesturing with his half-filled coffee cup. "Though I die a little on the inside. Mara. Do you need my help?" he asks, seamlessly switching back into the more pressing topic at hand.

Oh, he is good. Part discomfort, part necessity. And maybe even part annoyance? Either way, Mara is content to let the subject of the Advert of Questionable Taste slide. For now. "Yeh. I think I do."

The fact that Nathan is even here is answer enough. Mara actually stating it is a different matter, and Nathan meets here gaze squarely, perhaps for the first time since this meeting began. His hand twitches, as if about to extend across the table to touch or take hers, but that's about when 'brinner' arrives, the plate clattering down onto the table from the otherwise quiet waitress. Distractedly, Nathan nods once and refills his coffee, as if only doing so so that he has something to do with his hands. "I'll see what I can do," he states, almost business-like and detached.

"Thanks." Mara takes the time to cut her waffles up into tiny little pieces before she applies, quite liberally, the syrup. She skewers the first bit of waffle-y goodness on her fork and then holds it out across the table. "Try some," she demands.

Stubborn Petrelli is stubborn. For five seconds. Nathan makes a show of pushing back the sleeve of his jacket to observe his watch, and give her a look. But that's all the argument he summons up before taking the fork from her. "Before you can tell me to live a little," is his explanation.

Mara flashes Nathan her best grin. He may be stubborn, but they both know she's just as bad, and he always tends to cave before she does. "They're good. Promise." She leans back, apparently self-satisfied. Only the drumming of her fingers on the tabletop betrays her restless nervousness.

"I'm sure they are." That, and Nathan picks his battles. Just not always the right ones. This one proves to be correct, because waffles, as they always do, taste good, and he hands the fork back once the bite is taken. "Not bad for a roadside diner," he says. "Can barely taste the cardboard." Her restless nervousness is only matched with his awkward, tilting his coffee cup back so he can peer into it, take another sip.

"How's the campaigning coming?" Mara pours herself another cup of coffee. She quite unintentionally finds herself keeping her eyes on her plate as she works on making her brinner disappear. "You look good on the news. I mean, I haven't got much else to do, so I channel surf and play Spot the Petrelli." Soaps are still the morning staple, of course.

"Thanks," Nathan says, with a hint of an amused smile. "Much like last year, only harder, what with people trying to kill me and all." Spoken so casually that it kind of just slips into the conversation, and Nathan continues blandly. "People are actually listening to what I have to say this time around, and as usual I'm the underdog in this scenario, but…" Mara gets a politician smile as Nathan lifts his coffee to sip. "Could be worse. Better them gossiping about how I'm a soppy liberal," he rolls his eyes here, "rather than resident flying man."

"Did you know I hate it when you smile at me that way?" Mara meets Nathan's gaze now, serious. "It feels so insincere. I'd like to think you and I are better than… that." She frowns faintly and then tips her head to the side inquisitively, "Speaking of flying men… Hear about Washington Square?"

"If you hate it, dismiss it as irony," Nathan says, relatively simply, but he seems somewhat bothered by this reprimand, briskly finishing off his coffee so as to fold his arms back onto the table. "No, what happened in Washington Square?"

Mara decides to dismiss his comment in the way that he expects her to dismiss the smile. And besides, there's something more important going on. "A man fell from the sky," she answers. And then lets it linger.

It lingers. Nathan raps his fingers against the surface of the table once, twice, then: "Well I didn't do it." The inevitable comment out of the way, he watches her carefully. "Anymore information than that?"

"Obviously," Mara muses, "or you would have already been giving me a list of reasons why the guy deserved it." At his question, she shrugs. "I get my info from the paper and the news these days. You were the first person I thought to ask. Not because I suspect anything, but… You know how it is."

Wouldn't have been the first time. This… definitely not something Nathan feels fit to share right now, but he can appreciate the slightly morbid parallel on his own. He shrugs. "Haven't seen anyone playing Superman up there. And I don't know anyone else who can do what I do, aside from Peter," he says. "As you can see, neither of us have been murdered."

"I'm reasonably certain I would feel a part of me die if something happened to you, the instant it happened." The words tumble from Mara's mouth before she realises she's shared a bit too much sappy sentiment. She covers for this by redoubling her efforts to clear her plate of waffle bits. She's rapidly running out of tasty, tasty maple-covered distractions.

It's this moment that the radio chooses to play some Culture Club. As if Mara's statement just now wasn't derailing enough. It'd be easy to just mock her for the sentiment until the moment passes, but instead, Nathan kind of just studies her before glancing again at his watch. "No wonder Peter and you get along," he says, after enough silence punctuated by fork scraping against plate has passed. Because it really is something Pete would relate to. He starts to say something else… before trailing off. Nathan's brand of flusteredness. He nods to her plate. "'bout ready to go?"

"I have my moments," Mara mutters after finishing the last bite of waffle. "But my emotional outbursts do not define me," she warns. Although their entire relationship seems to be built on emotional outbursts. "Go?" She frowns faintly, turning her gaze away. "I suppose I could be." She puts a ten and a five on the table, enough to pay for her meal, their coffee, and still leave a generous tip.

Nathan lets her pay for the coffee, pushing himself up to stand and leading the way outside. The temperature's somehow dropped a little, and he glances up at the sky before pulling his jacket around himself a little tighter. "When will I see you next?" he asks once she's followed him out.

"Any time you like, I should think." Mara starts the slow walk toward her car, head tilted for him to follow. "All you need to do is call, and we'll arrange something." The vehicle is unlocked. "Climb in. I'll drive us out away from the lights so you can take off." The words are innocuous enough, but they can both read the meaning there.

Nathan hesitates, glancing back towards the diner, before nodding once and moving around the car towards the passenger side. In some books, it might be unmanly to let the woman drive you everywhere. But honestly, Nathan's had it to here with cars, and is happy to let pretty much anyone else go ahead and try their hand at it. "If we reach some traffic lights at some stage," he says, opening the car door, "I'll have to show you a trick."

Mara settles in behind the wheel and squints at Nathan for a moment. "Yeah, there's a couple. Is this a deal where I should hit the ones outside of town, rather than on the main drag where someone might see?" I'm on to you, Petrelli. I know how you operate.

"Probably a good idea," Nathan says, settling into his seat and pulling the seat belt into place. His entire demeanor has changed, one of the rarer moments where he isn't acting like all his forty years. Because he has something cool to show off. "Though it's reasonably subtle. Wouldn't worry too much."

"Alrigh'." Mara puts the car in reverse, looking over her shoulder as she pulls out of her parking spot, before shifting into drive and pulling quickly out of the lot. Rather than turn toward town, she heads the other direction. About a mile down the road, and there's his stop light.

There we go. Nathan takes out what appears to be a normal TV remote. Not even a very fancy one, the kind that accompanies an old television set and maybe the channel three button doesn't work as well as it should. Basically, a little anti-climactic. "Okay, watch the light, don't drive through yet." Nathan points the remote, and hits the power button. A few seconds later, the red switches to green. He holds up his other hand in a 'one moment' gesture, and presses the remote again. Three, two… and it switches back to red.

Mara comes to a complete stop well before she reaches the light, alternately gaping between the light and Nathan's remote. "What in the world is that? That's like one of them things that we have in our squad cars that changes all the lights for us when we've got the cherries flashing."

"Peter made it," Nathan says, and because no one's around, he continues switching the lights at leisure. Despite this being the best present ever, he's careful not to use it a lot in the city when it's most needed, for risk of fucking up the Manhattan traffic light system. "He was supposed to be programming his VCR, then just started putting this together. Decided I'd make better use of it and gave it to me as a late birthday present."

"Nice," Mara smirks. She then glances toward the light, and then turns her amused expression on Nathan. "Green light so I can go now, please?" She chuckles softly. Boys and their toys.

Caught. Nathan makes a :| face and switches the light obediently, finally pocketing the remote. But the light doesn't change to green. It… doesn't change to anything, the red light going dead too. "…um. Just drive," Nathan suggests, glancing around a little nervously.

Nathan has just earned himself a shocked and definitely incredulous look from his driver. "I cannot believe you just broke the traffic light." She looks left, then right, and then left again. No one coming. No one anywhere. Mara steps on the gas and blows through the dying light, head tipped back to cackle. "That's awesome!"

"Peter broke the traffic light. Indirectly," Nathan argues, then glances at her, unable to help cracking a grin too, obscuring it as he brings a hand up to wearily rub his face. "Jesus. Good to know, before I accidentally shut down Times Square or something."

"That would be bad." Stating the obvious. Mara sighs softly and rolls her eyes. "Just wait until you're a senator. Then things'll get interesting." She grins and finds an empty stretch of road to pull of on, killing the headlights and leaving them to the dark. "This is as good a place as any, I suppose."

Senator. God. Nathan just shakes his head to himself, as the car comes to a halt. "Alright. Stay safe," he says, opening the car door and slipping outside, the loud thunk of it shutting behind him quick to ensue. Apparently, lingering goodbyes are off the menu for tonight. With the headlights off, and this far out in the middle of nowhere, Nathan is relatively obscured as he starts off down the road, taking his time before the inevitable take off.

Never one to miss this spectacular event, Mara steps out of her car, leaning against it to better watch when Nathan finally decides to take to the sky. This never gets old.

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