2007-04-05: This Is Not About Love


Mara_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: This is not about love. Because they are not in love. In fact, they can't stop falling out…

Date It Happened: April 5, 2007

This Is Not About Love

Central Park

The late afternoon sun helps to ward off the spring chill that lingers on the wind that blows through Central Park. While others may still be bundled up to ward off the cool air, at least one woman isn't bothered by it. Mara closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, letting out a contented sigh. It feels good to be out and feel the breeze on her skin. She looks up at her companion from her seat in her wheelchair and offers him a warm smile. "Thanks for taking me out like this. I was beginning to feel like a bird in a cage."

"Well, hiding in plain sight, it's a theory." In contrast to Mara's mood, Nathan is a slightly broodier presence in the sunny though chill park, although he does return her smile, even if he forces himself to do so. For the unadjusted, wheelchairs are more a labour than a stroll, so Nathan pushes it for her, at a meandering pace. Similarly, conversation wanders, and he can't help but ask, likely not for the first time, "No sign of Gray?"

"Nothing." Unless you count the vision she's not telling him about. But she's not. Certainly not. "I'm… really thinking I'd like to be home." Mara watches the ground pass by under her wheels, rather than to see the reproachful look she'll no doubt draw.

Cue reproachful look, as well as a huffed out sigh. "Well, there's a smart idea," Nathan says, snippily. "Go straight to where what we're protecting you from is meant to happen. If you need anything from the apartment, I can get it for you." This is said in a very final tone.

"Why, Nathan Petrelli. If I didn't know better, I would say you actually care about me." Mara's tone is mocking, but only gently. "Nakamura agrees with you. But Parkman says I need to head him off at the pass. It isn't as though I wouldn't be ready for him. Parkman's right. I can't just… keep being a goddamn coward."

"Ready for him…" Nathan trails off, shaking his head to himself. He veers the wheelchair towards a nearby park bench, moving to sit down in front of Mara. "Ready for him /how/? You can't walk. Apparently guns can't stop this guy. Your superpower is blacking out when you touch things. The only thing you'll be /ready/ for should you put yourself where he wants you is making that painting come true."

"So you do think it's me." Mara nods solemnly. "This woman, Niki, showed me a photograph of the painting…" It's obvious she doesn't know that that name should mean anything to Nathan, the way she's so casual about it. "I don't know what to make of it. It could be me…"

The mention of Niki gets a narrowed look from Nathan. Damn that name just keeps popping up everywhere. He says nothing, however, not wishing to tangle everything even further. "And even if it's not, Peter told me about that vision. You and I both know your apartment isn't safe. And you want to, what, go there to prove you're not a coward?"

"I can't live like this. I want my /life/ back." Mara shakes her head. "Forget I said anything. I just… Parkman's right. I need to be doing /something/ proactive, and hiding in that apartment isn't accomplishing that."

"You're injured and a target," Nathan insists, but then stands up, moving to take the handles of the wheelchair again. With a slightly unnecessary jerk, he moves to walk them along the path again. "You want your life back, then fine. Let's see how long it lasts." Yeah, he's a little ticked. After all, hiding away seems like a perfectly fine strategy to him.

Mara actually howls as she reflexively tries to steady herself when jarred by the sudden lurch of the wheelchair. She reaches down and holds her injured knee gingerly. "Does hiding come so terribly easy to you, then?"

When Mara cries out, Nathan stops, then leans against the handles, head bowed. When he speaks again, his voice is a little more level. "When it has to." Going slower, and smoother, he resumes pushing the wheelchair. "I'm not gonna try and tell you what to do, here."

"But you'd like to." Mara reaches back to rest a hand over Nathan's. It's brief, however. He's still a public figure and one never knows if there's cameras about. "I'll stay away from the apartment, all right? I'd rather make you happy than try and prove something to Parkman." What price, machismo?

However brief the touch, Nathan makes it briefer, hand sliding back as he falls into uncomfortable silence at her statement. "Yeah, well, I think you should just focus on staying alive," he mutters, a deflection.

"Oh Christ, Nathan. It wasn't a confession of love." Because she doesn't love him. He's married and he has children for God's sake! "You don't gotta crawl out of your own skin." Mara keeps her expression neutral, even though her tone is bitter. "Just because I care what you think… It doesn't mean a damn thing, do you understand?"

"Fine," Nathan says, snappish. A nice, quiet, stroll in the park. Nice and soothing. He's tensely silent for a moment before his shoulders slump a little. "Listen, just… Heidi came home yesterday, out of the blue. I'm still trying to factor this in, so gimme a break."

Mara actually curses under her breath. "Bollocks." She covers her annoyance quickly with a cough. "Your sons, too? They must all be happy to see you." Dark hair bounces slightly with the shake of her head, "Good God, Nathan. What the hell are you doing taking me out for a walk when your wife is at home?"

"I'm glad to see them too." However grave the delivery of this line is, there's honesty there. As well as a multitude of other meanings. Nathan sort of pauses at that last bit. It's a good question. "Because… I had to get out of the house. She has questions and I don't have answers that don't make me sound insane."

"You had to get out of the house," Mara repeats flatly. "You'd rather spend-" She cuts herself off and shakes her head, focusing her gaze forward. "I'm… glad to be spending time with you. She doesn't have a clue, does she? She doesn't know where you are, what you're doing, or who you're doing it with."

"It's not like that," Nathan says, almost impatiently, defensively. "It's not me /rathering/ anything, it's…" It's what? It's difficult, is what, and complicated more than he could imagine. "She doesn't have a clue about any of it. I can't even tell her how I healed."

"That's a lovely basis for your marriage, isn't it?" Despite how it should sound, Mara somehow manages not to fill her tone chock full of snark. "You have to tell her. I… I get the feeling she could handle that. Way better than if she has to find out the truth from someone else." Like, I don't know, Peter?

"No, it—" God /damn/ it. This is like a reckoning of some kind. Nathan pitches his voice quieter for privacy's sake. "That would involve telling her I have a daughter. One she's not aware of. One who can cure people with her blood." Nathan stops strolling, letting go of the wheelchair, because he has to pace. "There's too much to even think of beginning. Better she… better she knows none of it. She doesn't need this."

"Lying to her is only going to make things worse, Nathan." Mara frowns. "I think she can handle a little indiscretion that happened at least a decade and a half ago." This indiscretion, however? Well, you know…

"Right. So the paternity suit was actually valid even though I said it wasn't and oh by the way, I can fly," Nathan says, folding his arms. "/I/ don't even want all this and I'm supposed to just… drag her into it."

"Well this crazy shit just keeps happening to you, doesn't it? There's no avoiding it, Nathan. You can't keep it from her forever." Mara stares up seriously at the man. This would be so much easier if she could stand up and just be eye-level. "The storm is coming. She needs to know."

He knows all this. He really does. Talk about wishful thinking. Nathan looks at Mara for a moment, before he steps back around the chair. The walk resumes. "And if she leaves me over it?" he finally asks.

"She doesn't," Mara says simply. "Not over that." Who would be more certain than she?

More silence, as Nathan neglects conversation in favour of thinking. He finally shakes himself out of it, commenting, lightly, "Yeah, well, she could always think I've lost it when I get to the part about superpowers and stay with me outta pity."

"It doesn't go that way either," Mara states firmly. "Stop this bullshit. I wish I'd never told you what I saw. Your dwelling on it isn't helping to prevent it."

"Then let's talk about something else," Nathan says, sinking back into that grouchy, snappish tone of voice. "Or you can tell me exactly what I need to do to prevent it and everything would be just swell."

The one request she absolutely cannot fulfill. Mara's already said too much about what she knows of Nathan's divorce, and she's not willing to divulge the last, most intimate details. For entirely selfish reasons. "Telling you won't change anything. And stop snapping at me." Despite the stoic expression, there's hurt in her voice.

The temptation to walk away is great. But he can't, and Nathan curses under his breath. That's it, children, we're turning this thing around. He veers back towards where they'd taken the car out - although he makes a point not to jerk the chair around. "Now /that's/ bullshit," he says. "If it's inevitable no matter what, then fine. But I have to believe it isn't." As for snapping, he doesn't apologise, although his tone is back to level.

"It's avoidable, all right? But I don't know /how/ you can avoid it. And I'm not going to give you my 'best guess' only to have it turn out wrong, all right?" Mara reaches down to grab the wheels in her hands so he can't move her any further. "Get around the goddamn front of this chair and look me in the eye or I'm going to scream."

Nathan takes the moment of being out of sight to roll his eyes, before releasing the chair rather than forcing her hands. He considers arguing, but instead, sighs, and walks around to face her as directed, holding out his arms like 'well? happy?' before they're folded again. The very picture of maturity, right now. Totally.

In a display that's equal parts defiance and stupidity, Mara braces her hands against the arms of the chair and pushes herself to her feet. "Don't talk to me like that. I've already given you all the hints you need to prevent your divorce." Mara's face is going steadily paler the longer she stays on her feet. It's not an easy task for her, and it shows.

Nathan's irritation is broken in favour of concern when she gets to her feet, and he makes a move as if to help her stand, or sit down, or something, but instead he just runs a hand through his hair restlessly. "Hints. Fine. Great. Wouldja sit down again so we can get back to the car."

Mara's own irritation flashes in her features for a brief moment. The moment is only made brief by the fact that she pulls back her hand to deliver an open-palmed slap to Nathan's face. She tries to keep her angry face on, but her eyes betray her. There's such a deep sadness in her hazel eyes.

That hurt more than Nathan would care to admit, in at least two ways. Pissed off for all of two seconds, Nathan sharply paces away, as if he were to leave her stranded, but the sting subsides and he looks back at her, her sadness met with his weariness. "Feel better?" he asks.

"No." Mara scowls fiercely. Or maybe it's a pout. "Well… maybe a little." Finally, she slumps back and drops heavily into the chair again.

Heh. Nathan moves to position himself back behind the chair— and only then when he's out of sight does he bring a hand up to touch where she slapped him. Ow, damnit. He then places a hand on her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze, before he starts to push the chair again, an all too familiar motion from another time and circumstance. "I'm not angry at you, you know."

"No, you're just angry at my ability and what it represents to you." Namely his divorce. Mara's tone is bitter, maybe a little hurt. She doesn't assure him that she isn't mad at him either. "You want to save your marriage, tell your wife the truth."

"Fine." And this time, it sounds like Nathan actually concedes this point rather than deflecting with impatience. But he has to ask, anyway. He doesn't /mean/ to bait Mara, but to him, she's unreadable. "How much truth is the truth, exactly? Because we're not just talking ancient history, here."

"Not /that/ much truth. Your brother knowing is bad enough." Mara shoots Nathan a dirty look. "Whatever happened to /definitely don't tell Peter/?"

"I didn't want /you/ to tell Peter," Nathan says, without skipping a beat. The dirty look is met with a raised eyebrow. "I was still allowed. He's my brother…" Okay, well… "And he's a telepath, so what was I going to do?"

"The same thing /I/ did when I figured out he was skimming my mind. You tell him to stay the hell out of your head." Mara rolls her eyes. "You-" She hesitates and turns away for moment. But then, she cranes her neck and forces herself to meet Nathan's gaze, "Is it over?"

"I just wanted to tell him before he found out on his own," Nathan mutters. There's more to that, more than likely, like the fact he was drunk and Peter is, for all intents and purposes, his conscience. But Mara's statement derails any more explanation, and Nathan definitely does not meet her eyes. "If it began?" he says, gently. He spares her a glance. "I think it has to be."

Mara rolls her eyes. "I think you started it when you tupped me while more or less sober." You know, just… Usually that means there's something. "I thought when you stayed the night-" She lets out an angry huff. "Over. Fine. I get it."

"It wouldn't be fair on my family," Nathan says, and this might have come off as a plea for understanding, but instead, too much frustration laces his words. The wheelchair is veered onto new pavement, where a car waits. Even so, he continues, voice still quiet, secretive. "What else am I supposed to do?"

"You shouldn't have-" The hurt (in more ways than one) woman falls silent and clasps her hands in her lap, before turning her gaze there as well. "It doesn't matter. It's not like you- Or that we- You're stupid." Mature.

…snerk. "Yeah," Nathan says, with flippant agreement, although his next words aren't quite so easy. There's guilt, there. "It does matter. The only 'shouldn't have' is that you got the raw deal in this." He moves, then, to open the car door, still not quite looking at her. "That's the only regret I got."

No kidding she got the raw end of the deal. "I got a few more than that." Mara climbs into the car carefully. It's an awkward movement, but it goes considerably smoother than when she tried to climb into the limo when he moved her from the hospital.

Nathan just stands by as she gets into the car on her own, suddenly distant, stoic. He waits until she's inside before he shuts the door for her. He makes quick time of folding up the chair, putting it in the trunk, with the practiced ease of someone who's done it a few times before, and finally, leans against the car when he's done. This is the bit where he gets in, too, but instead, he knocks once on the trunk as a signal, and turns to walk away, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

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