2007-04-07: Small Comfort

Starring:

Nathan_icon.gif Heidi_icon.gif

Summary: At least they're on the right path… right? Also, Claire is seventeen, and Nathan fails at remembering this as he tries to tell Heidi (some of) the truth.

Date It Happened: 7th April, 2007

Small Comfort


Hyde Park - Sitting Room - Petrelli Mansion

Strictly speaking, home life should now be more normal. Nathan had to watch himself - he had to be 'dad', for instance. That couldn't be a bad thing. In fact, he had rather hoped it would ground him and /force/ some kind of normalcy on his life. Instead, it was just a whole new level of difficulty, and he was wondering if it was starting to show.

The kids are in bed, now. As they should be, as it was getting late for even the adults in the house. All the same, Nathan occupies the sitting room. The radio's on, but turned low, and really only there so that sitting alone in a room seems less weird. The smallest dose of whiskey he's had in a long while sits in a glass, so far untouched and and held loosely in his hand. He has his cellphone out, as if he's pondering whether to dial something on it, before he snaps it closed and tosses it on the table in front of him.

—-

Though she didn't spend the day at home, Heidi's been here for the past couple hours, mostly planning for the next week, considering going shopping despite the presense of hired help - getting out of the house, essentially. Having vacationed for any weeks, she now finds it hard to sit still for extended periods of time, so she's keeping herself as busy as possible.

Eventually, she makes her way to the sitting room. In her hand is a glass of water and a plate with a few cookies on it. Nothing too heavy before bed, but she's not tired just yet. Finding Nathan there is no surprise… There's not a lot else to do this late. Setting the plate on the table where they can both reach it, Heidi takes a seat in an armchair. "Did the kids tell you about their trip to the zoo?"

—-

As Heidi walks in, Nathan offers her a smile. The urge to stand up, pull her to sit with him closer on the couch rather than separately, is great, and somewhat strange and disarming, too, which is likely why he does not, staying where he is. Although he does shift to set down his glass and pick up a cookie. "They did," he answers. "Simon is gonna be asking Santa Claus for a cow, apparently. They have cows at zoos?" It's been a while since he's been.

—-

"You could have come with us," she says, smirking and sitting back in her chair, the glass of water resting on one knee. "There was a baby cow born not too long ago. I don't think they cared about anything else we saw there, to be honest. He was in the petting zoo. Or … she, I couldn't tell." It was a lot of fun, though. Lots of people. "Sooner or later, we're going to have to show you our picture book we put together in Florida." …which is fairly extensive, since they were there for a long time. Pictures of the boys with Mickey and Chip and Dale, pictures of some alligators, countless tourist traps and attractions, and then a whole bunch of them all just chilling at the hotel, having fun. "Next time, you should come."

—-

"Cows are female," Nathan puts in, from his limited wealth of knowledge of farm animals. "Probably a she. Right, forgot about the petting part of the zoo." The whiskey is taken, downed, glass set aside, cookie now getting turned in his fingers as they talk. "Maybe we can have that Hawaii vacation I keep threatening sometime. Could be good to get out of this city for a while. Just you and me and the boys." Now he actually looks at her for a moment, rather than just in her general direction. "How you holding up?"

—-

"…well, it was a /baby/ cow. I couldn't tell," Heidi says. And she didn't really look, so it could have been a boy or a girl. "And there were goats, too. I think they liked the goats." And bunnies and all sorts of other things that were docile enough for the kids to play with. Heidi just stood inside the fence and made sure they didn't hit or otherwise annoy the critters, while the keeper essentially did the same thing.

Vacation… Yeah, that sounds good. Heidi doesn't say that, though, instead conveying the emotion with a half smile as she looks down into her glass of water. It'd be so easy just to put everything behind them and start over, forgetting about hardships like wheelchairs and political races. "Nathan…" She doesn't finish her statement, though, merely shaking her head. Questions she wants to ask remain unasked for the moment. "That… Sounds nice. The kids will love it. During the summer, though, so they don't have to switch schools again."

—-

"Then it's a date," Nathan says, with some forced cheerfulness. "Just if we can stay clear of the shirts, we should be good." And why is he getting that sinking feeling, all of a sudden? Getting away is just what he needs, after all… but he'd have to do /this/ 24/7. Be this. Which is what he /wants/ but isn't sure is entirely accurate. He brings a hand up to wearily rub his face, settling back further into his chair. "Got any plans for tomorrow?" he asks, attempting to keep the oh so normal conversation going.

—-

Blue eyes watch Nathan as he speaks, even as her mind is already starting in on the little details they'll need to consider for planning a vacation to Hawaii. At least a couple weeks, if not more. The kids will need to cancel summer plans like indoor soccer and little league— They'll need a solid date.

But at the same time, she's watching Nathan. She knows him, probably better than a lot of people. She saw him when he was young, spirited. When he didn't plan his life around saving face or looking more grown up than he should be, and she can /sense/ something. She has from the start. "No," is her answer. Simple, yes, but she's still considering… "Nathan, you need to talk to me."

—-

"We're talking," Nathan points out, too lightly and too flippantly. But he knows there's only so much more time before brushing Heidi off would do more damage than good, and he sets the uneaten cookie down. "I know," he amends. "It's been a while." And whose fault is that, indeed. "What do you wanna know." And so he opens the floodgates for unanswerable questions, and he looks almost wary.

—-

They're talking, yes, but it's substanceless. When's the last time they didn't talk about the weather or something equally unimportant? Sure, they discuss the kids, they go through the motions, but…

Heidi frowns. She doesn't want to fight, tries to avoid them wherever possible. Especially since Nathan was sitting here, minding his own business, and she's the one who came in here to bother him. That's when she realises how closed their marriage has become, but she doesn't know how to /fix/ it, to get it back how it was when they first met.

"People - experts - say that the passion in a relationship, the physical desire… That lasts on its own for about a year. Beyond that, it's love that carries people through, and we had that, Nathan. I…" She trails off leaning forward to set her glass on the table. "I thought about what I was going to say," she adds sheepishly. Heidi was hoping to be all philosophical, bring this up in a way where it wouldn't dissolve into a 'No, you!' battle, but it seems too contrived. Finally, she meets Nathan's eyes again. "I just want to know you again."

—-

"We have that," Nathan finds himself correcting, instinctively. If anyone were to glance at them, here and now, finding these two people talking quietly in a dim room and so separated physically, they'd likely be hardpressed to agree with Nathan. But he seems to mean it. "We've been through a lot, you know this. And if we've gotten through that before, we can do it now, right?" Because that's, essentially, the important part. This should probably be a rhetorical question, but he finds himself looking across at his wife for an honest answer. Even if she doesn't know what this is.

—-

Maybe he's not hiding anything and she's just being paranoid. Then again, she's never really been like that before, her instincts are usually right. Even if Peter backs up Nathan's story, it's so hard to wrap her mind around the fact that he just didn't contact her. If he wasn't around when her legs healed, the only thing she would have been able to think about would be /telling him./ When he looks at her, her eyes speak a lot more than she can out loud. It's… worry, trepidation. The need to have her fears put to rest. "The months I was gone… It's like a — I don't know. I was in a void. I don't have any idea— I don't think the boys have stopped talking about Florida, but you… All I know is that there's someone after you. Just… talk to me. Tell me something. Tell me I'm worrying for nothing." Last time she asked him to do this, she believed him, and she's prepared to do so again in theory, but the truth is… Heidi's not sure it's going to be so easy this time.

—-

There's the kicker. The truth just is so much worse than the lie of some nutjob with a vendetta against politicians. That truth can come later. Still, he has to reassure. "There's no one after me, exactly. Not /me/. It's still been dangerous here, I still wanted you to keep you and the boys out of the way, but it's not what you think." He shakes his head. "Gotta start at the beginning," Nathan says, gently. Everyone has a different one. His started some 17 years ago. "I have a daughter, Heidi. She's…" …epic fail, when he can't immediately bring her age to mind. "I think she's 15." He pauses, keeping still, as if trying to make no sudden movements.

—-

The truth is what she wants, though, even if she could be asking for something she doesn't really need to hear. The fact is, she's not /happy,/ and hasn't been truly happy since she crashed into a barrier on the freeway. She's tried, she's had good days, good /months,/ but it always comes back to worry - what if my husband doesn't love me anymore?

The beginning… Her heart sinks immediately when he says that he has a daughter, and Heidi's picturing a little girl - an infant. Someone who could have been born within the last year when their trouble started. That, she could understand, but— "Fif— fifteen?" Heidi states quietly. It doesn't take much in the way of calculation to figure out that this girl was born while they were dating, after they met. Before Monty, even before Simon, and certainly long before the accident that paralysed her. But… It's not like they haven't really /connected/ in that time. They /have!/ which makes her wonder what went wrong so long ago that he had to go to someone else.

Logically, it shouldn't matter, but it does. Even if it was a long time ago, the injury is raw in her own mind, and painful. Yet she calmly replies, "What's her name?"

—-

"Claire," Nathan answers. He shuts his eyes, shakes his head. "It was a mistake. One I wanted to leave behind, bury it. But I didn't even know about Claire until just last year. Needed to keep it quiet because of the election." He opens his eyes as if expecting Heidi to have somehow vanished when he wasn't looking. "And I didn't know how to tell you." A bitter smile. "Guess I waited 'til it was almost too late, huh?"

He studies her, now - he's not a perceptive person when it comes to the feelings of others, but they've been together so long that he /knows/ she's hurting. "For what it's worth…" I'm sorry. Just say it. Instead, he trails off.

—-

"Claire," she repeats, for lack of anything else to say in reply. At least Heidi doesn't feel so alone anymore… It's not just /her/ that Nathan needed to keep quiet, but his own daughter, as well. It doesn't exactly lessen the pain, even though she knows that it shouldn't feel so terrible. What did she do wrong, why wasn't she good enough, why are they still together — all these things cross her mind, but she can't fathom repaying his honesty with anger. She just can't do it.

Heidi can't keep other emotions under such control, though. Blue eyes shine with tears, though she's doing her best to hold them back. He's just told her he committed adultry /years and years/ ago, and— she's not sure how she's supposed to feel. A nod is offered to the unspoken apology… she wants to hear it, but there's something much more important on her mind. "So, what do we do?"

—-

Nathan gets to his feet, moving to sit closer, although he doesn't try to take her hand or anything as of yet. He can't help but imagine that that would just be demeaning. "That's your call," he says. He wants to say all the right things - like how he was younger and stupider back then, how he would /never ever/ do something like that again, but he has enough lies to keep track of. All he can feel is that this is barely a scratch on the surface and it's already starting to hurt. They've got a long road ahead of them. "I guess I figure out if you can forgive me for that and we go from there."

—-

Well, at least he's told her. Even if it's a small comfort now, she can rationalise that because she has to. Heidi does wish he'd say more, though, but she can only guess as to what he's thinking.

"It was a long time ago, wasn't it?" she says. She can't seem to reach for him, either… Despite the fact that she knows their marriage meant something, the burden of reassurance is on him now. Despite the time between when it happened and /now,/ it might as well have just happened yesterday for all Heidi knew about it, but she can't throw what they /do/ have away.

She raises a hand to dry her eyes. No tears actually fell, but her eyes are red and watery. She can resist, though! "I'm glad you told me. I hope you know you can tell me anything." Does she mean that? Heidi's not so sure. But to tell him that he can't ever tell her a thing… That's going to be radically counterproductive.

—-

The fact that she holds herself together brings Nathan a weird sense of pride and a surge of affection. He moves a hand to her arm, just above her wrist, before sliding up to interlock his fingers with her's. "I'm working on that," he says. As far as he's concerned… that was the hard part. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, this was but a throwaway detail, but this really isn't about the grand scheme of things, is it? It's about an old lie between a married couple, and as far as Nathan's concerned, everything else can come easy after that. He brings her hand up to kiss. "There's more I have to say. But I just need time. I'll tell you everything, but for tonight, can we…" Stop talking? Not end what sanity we have here too early?

—-

Heidi's pretty good at holding herself together on the outside, convincing herself it'll all be okay on the inside, and trying to sort out her feelings before they hurt other people. She can't bring herself to smile, though, because it's not /that/ okay, but she doesn't pull away from Nathan, either. He's her husband, she vowed 'for better or for worse,' wants desperately for this to work out. Even though she doesn't want to stop talking, she nods anyway, because anything she says right now would hurt them both. "Yeah, why don't we— Why don't you go up to bed, I'll be there in a few minutes." If there's more, Heidi doesn't want to hear it tonight. The fact that Nathan has a daughter complicates things; it's easier to only deal with one thing at a time.

—-

A squeeze to her hand before he releases it. In a way, Nathan wants to lay everything out for her, /everything/, just get this over and done with. But that would be easier for him, not her, and in the end, the risk of driving her away is too great. He nods once at her reply, beyond grateful, and goes to kiss her on the cheek. When he leaves the room, heads upstairs, he tries to convince himself that this isn't yet another retreat.

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