2007-11-30: More Than Intimate


Mara_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: Against his better judgment, a still-sick Nathan pays a visit to self-medicated Mara.

Date It Happened: November 30, 2007

More Than Intimate

Mara's Apartment

Heavily medicated and drinking is not usually a desirable state for most human beings, but Mara seems to like the effect that a cocktail of Gordon's and Vicodin has on her. More specifically, she likes the way it numbs the effects of her ability. There's really only one person in the world she'd ever be comfortable with seeing her this way - even if she is still ashamed that she is in a bad way. A pot of coffee has been brewed, the carafe set on a knit cozy on the coffee table in front of the couch. Mara, however, continues to nurse a glass of gin and 7-Up, eyes fixed on the door and waiting.

He really shouldn't be doing this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is this… goddamn plague. The one that disabled him from being able to fly his way here than taking a taxi, but what can you do? Nathan knocks on the door and brings that hand up to run through his hair, eyes half-lidded in something liked tiredness. Maybe she put coffee on. Coffee would make him more alert. A trench coat layers over a sweater and a shirt beneath that, slacks, polished shoes, and a scarf wrapped about his neck that he starts to undo by the time the door is answered. Thanks to having little to zero appetite over the past month and a half, he's become thinner, and not in the healthiest of ways.

The door opens and Mara stands in a pair of - of all things - thigh-high, cable-knit socks in a creamy shade that would be far more at home on a sweater some yuppie at a ski chalet has donned, a pair of lounge shorts with her alma mater's logo on the left thigh, and a man's button-down dress shirt. She, likewise, is thinner than in their past encounters. Her hair has at least been combed, but there's deep chestnut roots cutting an obvious line through the dark red her hair was previously dyed. Once she's ushered him inside and re-bolted the door, she flashes him her familiar smile, tired though it may be. "Come here, you." She pulls him into a tight hug, resting her forehead against his for a moment. "Here," she murmurs after a moment, pulling away from the embrace that likely should never have been, "let me take your coat."

There's something about the embrace that's welcome, even if that little voice of 'don't touch! you're sick!' goes off familiar in his head. Nathan shuts it down and hugs her back, eyes briefly closing for the remainder of it before she's pulling away again. "Thanks," he says, moving to let her peel the trench from his shoulders, handing her the scarf as well, both items smelling strongly of cologne that masks the scent of sweat from his fever. He glances her up and down, taking in the outfit. "I didn't know this was a formal occasion," he quips.

"Hey, if you can't answer the door dressed in your night clothes when it's your closest friend coming to call, then I don't even want to speculate as to what this world's coming to," Mara shoots back as she moves to hang the coat and scarf up in a little closet by the entrance. "I'd say you're looking well, but you'd call me a liar. So I'll say you're looking well compared to me." She gestures toward the couch, and the pot of coffee. "I'll fetch you a mug. Sit. Did you want something to eat? I think I have something in the fridge that hasn't gone bad since my last vision."

"Not hungry," Nathan says, automatically, moving to sit down as directed. As for who looks worse, that's not a battle he's willing to fight for either of their sakes, so he just smiles wanly at her and shrugs a little. "We certainly match," he concedes, a flash of concern before he's looking away. "Still having trouble with your ability?"

Mara wavers for a moment as she reaches up on her tiptoes for a coffee mug on the highest shelf. "It's getting better with self medication," she responds softly, "but I've been known to pass out for days. Never feels like I've slept, unfortunately. I'm surprised you didn't make a face when I opened the door. Must be because I brushed out my hair." She pads back to the couch, weaving just slightly as though she can't decide which way actually creates the quickest path from point A to point B. She pours the coffee but hesitates with a half inch left to go before the mug can truly be pronounced 'full.' "You still take it black, don't you? I've got some real cream in the fridge if you like."

"Black as pitch," Nathan confirms, watching the coffee more than her. Easier to observe the coffee rather than the signs of booze and medication, and he reaches out a hand for it when she's done. "Now you sit before you fall over and break something and I have to call 911," he says, acknowledging it reluctantly even as he takes a sip. "I'm not in the mood to be a hero today."

Mara takes her seat like a good little girl and reclaims the fizzy glass that's in front of her place. "Oh come now, Nathan. You actually like me. You wouldn't do something mean like call 911." She fixes him with a look and a smirk, but both fade quickly. "Sometimes, we do the best we can with what we have. I don't have much, but I'm making the most of it." She feels the need to add, "I don't care if I get sick. At least the visions would stop." There's a certain edge of sincerity to it. As much as being sick is a drag, she truly wishes to be rid of those visions. "I have to admit, I asked you over here for more than simply companionship… Though, that really is the icing on the cake."

There's a stillness that sets in to Nathan for a moment, before he's taking a sip of coffee, clearing his throat once he's done. "The other symptom of this thing being death?" he points out, suddenly— painfully— aware of his own illness and that he's now sitting in the living space of someone he cares about. He glances down at the mug in his hands. Contaminated. They still use separate cutlery and dishes in his home, a cupboard devoted to the sick residents. Stupid, what was he thinking. The discomfort is evident, and he clears his throat again in an effort to ease the tickle in his throat, to avoid coughing. "What'd you ask me here for."

"Information. Satisfaction of curiosity." Mara turns in her seat, drawing her feet up off the floor to sit Indian-style on the cushions. "What has Peter told you about what he saw when he went to the future?" She can only assume that if he was willing to tell her, the younger Petrelli told his own brother.

Nathan doesn't turn to her, feet planted against the floor and elbows resting against his knees. He gives a dry, coarse chuckle. "Enough," he says. "I didn't know he'd relayed anything about that to you. It doesn't look so great, does it?"

"Which bit?" Mara muses darkly, "The part where the world's gone to hell in a handbasket? Or the part where I married your brother? Or thought I did." She sets her drink aside, actually pushing it far enough away that she'll have to really lean to reach it if she wants to reclaim it, and then reaches out to touch the underside of his chin, tipping his face toward her. "Hey. Look at me. You aren't that person. I know you. I don't know what happened to make that man exist, but I know he isn't you." She's more right than she knows, and yet so very wrong.

Incomprehension, first, then realisation, brown eyes locked with hazel for the span of a few moments before he pulls back an inch, coffee mug forgotten in his hands. "What do you know," Nathan asks, so quietly that it's almost inaudible if not for their proximity. His eyes close for a moment as he restates that question into something more comprehensive. "What do you know about the future?"

"Cracked mirrors. Shattered lives. Broken loves. It's all the same thing in the end, I think." Mara winces faintly and casts one longing look to her alcohol before she rises to her feet again, moving back toward the kitchen. "Apparently the world goes to hell and I find some quantum of solace in your brother. Or, rather, I find some solace with who I think is Peter. I can tell that my future self has no clue which one she's married to. Oh, God. Do I really marry that monster?" Having acquired a second coffee cup, Mara leaves it to sit on the counter as she leans over the sink, body convulsing once as though she might like to purge her stomach as well as those thoughts.

There's a gentle thud as he puts the coffee back down onto the table, getting to his feet. "You don't," Nathan answers, approaching her. "Because you know better now." His hand comes to rest against her back. He knows exactly what it's like to fear the future, and his own election didn't make that much better. As if some higher being was drawing him closer and closer to the fate Peter described. "Hey and ah, do me a favour. Don't marry my brother whether he's Gray or not." It's a joke, although a half-hearted one, and one that is slightly too honest to be joking.

Mara straightens up and turns around, bracing herself on Nathan's forearms with a shaky smile. "Never. I promise." The way she looks at him is an unspoken, 'I only have eyes for you.' "I thought I would die of embarrassment when he- So I had a crush on him. I can't help it if he got some of your good looks, can I?" And now her look begs, 'Forgive me.' She closes her eyes tightly as a shiver racks through her. "Oh, God." She reaches up blindly, resting a hand against the side of his face before reaching out to brush her fingers through his hair.

"Flatterer," Nathan lightly accuses, relieved amusement present now that they're back to something more lighthearted. Of course, that's thrown out the window in the next moment when her hand touches his face, his own skin far warmer than it should be, and he goes still as her fingers lace through his hair. His own hands, having come to rest on her arms, slide up to her shoulders, squeezing gently, and then drawing her close into an embrace.

Mara's eyes shut just a little tighter when he pulls her in, but she doesn't make any protests. They both know it's wrong, so what's the point in even making mention of it? She instead loops her other arm around his waist, gripping at a handful of his sweater. She's left without words for a moment. He's been known to have that effect on her.

He could kiss her. It would be easy. A hand lifts to touch hair with its faded dye and slightly wilted, unlooked after quality that still feels soft to touch, and she's tall enough that he can meet her eyes squarely. His forehead touches against hers much like their first embrace when he'd walked through door. "Not gonna make you sick," Nathan says, in that whispered, rasped way, voice thin, and he pulls back. Right or wrong, as that transcends debate, he's not going to have this on his conscience.

The woman indulges herself for just a few more moments. What's sick? She won't argue with him how she'd prefer to be ill and have had her moment with him than afflicted with visions and left cold and lonely. Even then, that isn't what presses on her mind anyway. She leans back when he does, maintaining her hold on him still and finally opens her eyes again. They're slightly wider than usual as though she's seeing him for the first time, or seeing him differently. But then, they gain that unfocused quality that they've had the few times he's seen her in the throes of a waking vision. She whispers something, two words.

"Bad Wolf."

Nathan knows it well, that look she gets, and he goes still, and kind of cold, much like the coffee she'd prepared for them both sits cooling and neglected. "Mara," he says, that hand still touching her hair coming around to touch her jaw, studying her glass-eyed stare. What did she touch that could…? Doesn't really matter, he knows her power is going haywire, and this can't be any different. The words she murmurs makes him hesitate, something about them— it makes pause, as if afraid, but he asks the question he's not sure he wants an answer to even if she could give him one, "What're you seeing?"

The woman sags for a moment before she seems to snap out of her trace. She blinks, as though clearing away visions and cobwebs alike. "I don't know what I'm saying," she says in a hushed voice. "Forget what I say." She adjusts her hold on the back of his shirt and leans in to rest her head against his shoulder. "I'm scared, Nathan. I want to be normal. I think I'm going mad."

"If I could take them away, I would," he says, arms going around her in an embrace more protective than intimate. "Just not like this." Not when she could die from it, whether she cares or not. "I'm not gonna let you go mad." Why do all his friends, why does he included, have to deteriorate before his eyes? It's like it's just not enough to let people get on and struggle with their lives. Nathan's breathing changes with a sigh. "I become President," he says, in an almost storyteller tone. "After some war hits New York, I get elected. You'd think this'd be a great future to hear about, right?"

"I know," Mara murmurs against his neck. The act is more languid than intimate, the process of lifting her head simply too much for her at the moment. "For what it's worth, you look good in the Oval Office."

"Thank you," Nathan responds, bitterly. He's managed to put the question of his future out of his mind for a good while, this plague being something occupied his worries, along with the election itself when he'd decided to go ahead with it. But here… "What else?"

"The mirror shows much. Hides much. The one in the reflection is not the man outside." Mara groans quietly and lifts her head only enough to mimic a sort of thunking motion against the politician's shoulder. "I sound like Tamara Brooks." She doesn't let the statement linger long enough for him to ask about a girl she's not seen for months. "We both have everything taken from us. I think that perhaps we both became horrible people for it. Names… changed… Like disavowing the past, or protecting former selves from the horrors that we're in. Saying those lives have ended saves those souls from tarnish."

Of course he knows more. He can put facts behind the riddles. The fact that she's seeing it… something like it… Nathan relaxes his hands when he realises they're clenching. "Something like that," Nathan croaks out, clearing his throat to clear his voice. He backs up from her when this proves not to be enough, head turning and a fist coming up to shield the coughing that ensues. Once it's over, he's quiet for a little while before looking back at her. "I kind of… become two people," he says. She deserves to know. "And that other— person, he takes over, does things— does terrible things to the whole country."

"But the man who does those things isn't you." Mara slips around behind the man, turning him gently toward the sink and then slides her hands up underneath his sweater so she can gently rub his back through the fabric of the shirt beneath. "God, you poor thing. You sound just awful." She gives a quiet sigh and continues the line of conversation. "You're a good man. I've only ever seen you as a good man. I don't mean that as a matter of personal opinion. I've seen things. You're a good person."

Nathan allows the steering, resting his hands against the edge of the sink and shutting his eyes as she rubs his back. The heat his body is producing is obvious, and as if to quell it now that she's aware of it, Nathan runs the cold water tap, letting the water spill liberally over his hands before bringing his palms up to rub his face. "Good people can still do bad things," he says.

"That's true," she agrees. "My God, you're burning up. Nathan, I…" Mara hesitates, her breath hitching audibly in her throat. She's pleased he can't read the thoughts running through her head. Are you gonna die? Don't leave me. Don't let me face this world without you. "Why did Peter look so much better when I saw him last? He looked… healthy."

The running water is shut off, Nathan now taking the opportunity to move away from her, adjusting his sweater as he picks up a tea towel to dry off his hands, an arm up to use the sleeve of his sweater for his face. "Pete… he's better, now," he says. Managing to conceal any traces of selfish bitterness, although Mara may know better.

Mara knows better, and is no better herself. Her eyes narrows faintly. "How's he better and you're still sick?" There's a sharp edge to her tone. Something demanding. Answers. Now. It's like someone's flipped the switch and she's gone into police interrogation mode.

He hesitates, regarding her almost warily, asking without words about what she's thinking, because he knows that tone of voice. Usually it occurs just before she does something stupid. "It's not really my information to relay," Nathan says, but goes on with, "so it doesn't leave this room. But there's someone who has an ability, the power to… I don't actually know, but it could take away Peter's virus."

It takes a wise man to know that giving more information is the best prevention for stupidity, while simultaneously aiding and abetting it. "Really," Mara says dryly. "Huh. Now that's interesting." She then puts on a smile that wouldn't have been out of place on Donna Reed, if not for the gap in her teeth. "Go on, then. Sprawl on the couch and I'll give you a proper massage. You need it. I can tell these things."

"Maybe so, but I'm not the only one in this room who needs looking after," Nathan says, with one shake of his head. "And if I lie down I'm liable to fall asleep." That last part is slightly muffled as he sets about removing his sweater, leaving in place the navy blue undershirt as he moves out of the kitchen. Well, she's wearing her night clothes, he can forego a layer for the sake of comfort. Wilting like a delicate buttercup under the heat of his own fever is less desirable.

"You're in my home, so I'm going to look after you. That is just how it works," Mara insists. She snags the shirt from him and drapes it over the back of the couch. "You seem to know so much of the future to possibly be… Did he tell you about what's to become of me?" She rubs the tip of her nose with the back of her hand, relieving an itch as well as hiding the self-deprecating expression she indulges in for a moment. She ambles back to the kitchen to retrieve her coffee cup, and a towel, which she wraps around an ice pack from the freezer. "Here," she murmurs, handing it off. "Wherever it feels good." She pours herself a mug of coffee finally, taking a long drink, silently impressed by how it's managed to stay a drinkable temperature.

A quiet, if slightly humbled "thank you" is given when the ice pack is handed over. Nathan sits back down, closing his eyes briefly as he presses the cold against the back of his neck, breathing out a sigh. "He told me… he told me what he told you, I guess. That you married— would marry Peter who turned out to be Gray. I think he… I know he kills me, eventually. Peter said he wasn't sure if I— " Eye roll as he fails to articulate this the way he wants to. "If future-me even knew— will know that it's Gray. But I think he might kill you too." An apologetic glance her way. "I don't know a lot. I didn't want to know much to begin with but one thing lead to another."

"Peter has a way of doing that to us, doesn't he?" Mara's tone is gentle, even if they are both a little annoyed with the man's brother. "He's kind of like a trolley car that's gone off its cable sometimes. He means well, at least." She frowns faintly and moves to the back of the couch where she can lean over and knead Nathan's shoulders. "Why can't you have been the one to marry some silly bint and I could be the one to ruin the country. I dare say I find your fate a bit more flattering. I mean, first of all, I marry Peter. Your brother's a nice bloke and all, but… Really. Peter. I'm all wrong for him." The arrangement of words is deliberate, and Nathan should know her well enough by now to realise it. "And second of all, it isn't even Peter. I marry Gray. I marry Gray. I marry Gray." The thought is so horrifying, it demands to be said thrice. Maybe her hands work just a little too hard on the knots in the man's shoulders, but at least she catches herself before he can note it. "Am I that stupid? Really?"

A breathy, barely audible chuckle is Nathan's response, removing the icepack as she massages his shoulders, whatever protest he had dying easily, allowing the comfort. "Yeah," he says. "Still trying to work that one out. How none of us even knew… Well. I have an excuse. I wasn't— won't be exactly in my right mind. You know, Peter could have the decency to not go to the future if only so I can avoid grammatical obstacles. Hard to talk about stuff that's happened for someone, that hasn't happened yet."

"Oh, believe me, I get that." Briefly she holds up one hand as though testifying to the hazards of knowing the future. "But, really? How in the world do I share a bed with a man and- No. I don't want to pursue that line of thought any further. But I know what images I'll conjure up the next time I'm at the bar and I'm thinking I need a cold shower." She hmms softly and leans forward on her tiptoes even as her hands continue their work, leeeeeeeaning over so she can peer at Nathan in a sort of upside-down manner. "Do you miss me?" It's a horribly unfair question, but Mara's always been that type of horribly unfair woman.

A glance up to see a curtain of reddish hair, inquisitive wide hazel eyes and that familiar gap between teeth as she tosses that question to him. Nathan raises an eyebrow. Then his hand goes up, an awkward but rather well-meaning touch as he brushes back her hair— and the nature of the gesture becomes clear as a fingertip brushes against the scar at her forehead. "Did he mention you had this in the future?" he asks, quietly.

"No," Mara responds quietly. The light's gone out of her eyes just a bit as they take on that unfocused quality. Her body doesn't fall into that telltale stillness, however. "No… I saw myself. My arm was wrecked," she recalls, "but my face…" Her forehead. "He hadn't touched me."

It's easier, to turn a moment of mild flirting around into something more distancing. It's not an uncommon practice for Nathan, to put walls between himself and people through sharp words and actions, and now more than ever, everything just seems so fleeting. His ability, his marriage, his career, his daughter even. "The future's changed," he says. Scars don't go away - they fade, but they don't leave. "Be careful, Mara."

"You say that like you know something I don't," Mara responds with only a hint of humour. She straightens up again and redoubles the efforts of her hands. "I know. Future's changed. It means it's no longer a given that I'll be alive two years from now. S'what you're saying, isn't it?"

"That's what I'm saying," Nathan confirms, and winces a little as her fingers dig into his skin, but he's not about to complain. He's had worse massages, and it helps him wake up. He brings the icepack up to rest against his forehead. "It's not certain for anyone, anymore. Not that I want us to go hurtling towards Pete's future but it's nice to know."

"Innit tho'?" Mara withdraws her hands and moves around to sit down on the couch next to Nathan, one leg pulled up under her and the other resting on the floor. "I am plagued by the future and haunted by the past. I don't know what to trust anymore. I want to live in the now."

"Well. The now could do with some improvement too," Nathan says, drawing the icepack back down to refolding the towel around it. He leans back further into his corner of the couch. "I wish I could help you," he says, finally, not really looking at her. There's a lot of people he wished he could help.

"I should not be this jealous of your wife," Mara mutters. "She's a lucky woman." Long, pale fingers rake through her hair before she reaches for her coffee again and takes another drink. "So, if you split into two people, can I have your other personality? It's hardly cheating at that point, right?"

Having forgotten his own coffee, Nathan now mimics her, taking a sip of lukewarm bitterness with only the barest of winces. He starts to take another sip to make up for it, but when she says that, the gesture is promptly aborted, as if wary he'll laugh and choke, but somehow, he doesn't laugh, despite the lightheartedness. "Somehow, I think that'd be a very bad idea," he says, dryly, gaze going down to observe the contents of his coffee mug. He doesn't mean to take her seriously, but that's where his thoughts go, contemplating this future mirror reflection. "I don't know for sure what he's like but I think— I have enough of an idea."

"I'll take him over Gray." She raises her mug in a toast. "You're much better looking, for starters." Mara deals with these sorts of situations the only way she knows how to without losing her sanity - she makes light of them.

A look to her, the briefest of… something. Something not without pain, but not entirely bad either. Amusement with some sort of abstract gratitude that they're still capable of sitting here, talking like this. Nathan puts his coffee down. "I should get going," he says, and it's always him that says that, isn't it. Something else to be painfully grateful for.

"You always say that." And it earns him a smile. "And I always think the opposite." Regardless, Mara rises from her seat and picks up his sweater, holding it up so that he might just slip into it the way a child would be dressed by his mother. Though the gesture is helpful rather than patronising.

Suitably unpatronised, Nathan accepts the help, not particularly appreciating the warmth of the garment but knowing it's needed. "That's probably why I should," he says, pulling himself up to his feet with some effort. "But I'll see you soon." A promise, of kinds, as if the existence of this friendship is so intangible that it might break upon walking out. It was always somewhat like that, though.

Mara presses a kiss to Nathan's cheek before he can protest. Then a lighter one is dropped on his jaw, and a third on his neck. She sighs heavily, the sound more like a groan - and a groan is probably more accurate to the frustration she's feeling. "It never gets any easier, does it?"

Eyes close, a subtle wince at, frankly, his own idiocy, but it's gone by the time she can pull away. "No," Nathan says. She's the one hopped up on meds and alcohol, what excuse does he— ? Well. Excuses aren't so useful, in the end. He could probably come up with a billion and one. A hand comes up to cup her jaw, thumb brushing along her cheek, before he's moving away, picking up his trenchcoat to put on and stuffing the scarf into his pocket.

Mara's eyes roll skyward when he pulls away finally. The measure of self-restraint it takes to respect his wishes and not risk infection is difficult to summon, but she stays just this side of behaving. Though it is a line she toes. Excuses are cheap and easily eroded by actions. Mara's learned to stop making them when it comes to him. "Please stay safe, Nathan."

A familiar instruction in departure between them. Nathan isn't sure if it works very well, but they're still standing, right? "Stay sane," he offers back, just to change it up, and with a gentle click, he closes the door behind him.

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