2007-05-28: X Multiplied By Y Equals Progress

Starring:

Heidi_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: Not every step forward is three steps back.

Date It Happened: 28th of May, 2007

X Multiplied By Y Equals Progress


Nathan's Room, Petrelli Mansion

The hospital is never a nice place to be. Too many memories, things Heidi doesn't want to think about, a low point in her life which started a whole spiral out of control, and now here she is, in a house where she feels completely alienated and alone. Yeah, yeah. Cry, Emo Petrelli. Still it's true. This place doesn't feel like home anymore, and part of the problem is that she's just not sure how she's supposed to connect with Nathan anymore.

In the bedroom, she's lying across the comforter, arms crossed in front of her with her head resting on them, staring at the blank screen of a laptop that's been off for at least ten minutes - maybe more. She's comfortable, though, in a pair of shorts and one of Nathan's old t-shirts. She stole it long ago, so it doesn't smell like him anymore, but it's still some sort of symbolic closeness that sounds silly when she says it out loud - or even thinks it, really.

With a sigh, she closes her eyes, starting to drift off. When Nathan comes to bed, she'll hit the guest room again.

It's a routine. Go about the day, go to Peter's hospital bedside and linger there until he can't take it anymore, and go home. Better than the one before that wherein that middle segment involved staying put in Jack's bar or some other little dive. At least this time he has purpose.

Having completed this routine, Nathan is heading upstairs to their— well, his room, these days, tugging free his tie and undoing the throat button of his shirt. To see Heidi there is a surprise, but he tries not to acknowledge it as such. "Hey," he says, turning his shoulder to her as he goes to put away his tie and jacket. "Kids in bed?" The default subject.

This is where she smiles and pretends everything is okay, just before she stands up to excuse herself to the guest room. This time, though, her eyes remain on him for longer than even she originally intended, before she sits up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed, ready to stand.

None of the questions are actually answered. Of course the kids are already in bed. There's no more school, but it's getting to that point where they're at least under the covers. Simon's likely reading, Monty might be out by now. She doesn't want to talk about the kids tonight, though, so she just nods. For a moment, it looks like she might cry, but she finally looks away, to the floor, starts to stand…

"Nathan, what are we going to do?"

The conversation they had in the hotel room… There was nothing to it. It was a step, but it was almost substanceless despite its weight. "I don't want us to keep… This… Whatever it is we're doing. What is this, just… Faking it? Going through the motions? I want to trust you again."

Is this progress, or is this just another conversation? Nathan at first doesn't looking at her, shouldering off the jacket and draping it over something, along with his ties. Shoes and socks are the next to go before he finally, he turns to her. "I hate this," Nathan agrees, hands sliding almost casually into the pockets of his pants although everything else about him is anything but, and he looks at her evenly. "/I/ want you to trust me again. I can't— "

/Do anything/. He's so used to being in control but now that there aren't any lies to dictate this, he doesn't have any tools to work with, does he? "I can't work on this if we're gonna pretend to be strangers."

Closing her eyes, she sighs, finally getting to her feet. If she wants this to work, she's going to have to do something other than sitting around, waiting for Nathan to prove himself. That… May never happen. Besides, even if the responsibility is solely his, Heidi can't see him doing this on his own. It a way, it's not fair. If she wants him to try, she's going to have to show that she's willing to take a step.

And a step is all she takes at first. One step forward, blue eyes staring into brown.

Would anyone blame her if she told him that she had to walk out the door and never look back? Could she live with herself if she never had to worry about acclimating to Nathan's presense again? There's so much she loves about him, and people do make mistakes, but seldom something as severe as this. Where do they even start?

She reaches forward, taking his hand. Her own are a little cold, but the one previously bandaged is completely healed now, thanks to the guy in the coma over at Beth Israel. It's really the first contact she's had with him since that accidental kiss at the hotel. "I need you to tell me— Why. I need to know what…" Her eyes close and she grips his hand tighter. "What went wrong. If it was me, or you, or both, and… I need you to be honest. Even if it hurts."

Nathan has honestly been waiting for her to announce a separation of some kind. Hell, up until she takes his hand, he half expects her to present this announcement to him right then. Instead, no. He glances down at her hand, noting the lack of bandage, thumb brushing over where that cut had been. Peter. Peter's been comatose for a few days now, and Nathan only just noticed… These details slip by, he supposes.

Then, she asks something of him… and he's not sure this is something either of them want, but the chance to /explain/, to /defend/, that can't not appeal to him. In a way, he's been waiting for the opening.

Nathan squeezes her hand gently, moves to guide her to sit down with him. On the floor, at the foot of the bed, so they can rest back against it. Not an unfamiliar place, apparently. He starts after a short sigh, "I guess I just needed the company. You were out of town and— ," he's quick to continue, here, knowing full well she wanted to come home in the first place, "I couldn't just ask you to come back. I wanted to keep things normal for you, for the kids. So there was Mara." Saying that name in Heidi's presence? Still weird. Nathan clears his throat, not actually looking at Heidi as he speaks. "Didn't have to hide any of this from her."

She has no problem with this sort of thing now - the ability to heal… Hell, she asked because she didn't want the scar as a reminder. It was important to her for reasons she can't tell anyone, because it's personal. Instead, she's left with no indication that she even injured herself. Not even a faint line or discoloured skin. It's a beautiful gift.

She sits down, drawing her knees up, starting tto wrap her arms around them, but she takes Nathan's hand instead. It's hard for her, but not repulsive… She could make this work somehow, slowly, taking her time to try to figure out where she stands in all this. "I wish you didn't… feel like you had to keep your flying from me." In a way, that's the worst thing of all. Worse than the affair itself, worse than everything. The thought that she couldn't handle it, with no indication that he knows now that he should have said something- It's eating away at her. Why did they get married if he felt he had to hide from someone he should have been able to trust with his life?

Quietly, without fanfare, without a sob or any indication that it's happening, there are wet streaks across her face.

"So I was right," she says. "I was right, I wasn't enough. You had to hide from me, because you didn't feel like you could talk to me." At this point, she looks up, smiles through the tears, then looks down again. "How was I suppsed to kn— How was I supposed to tell you I'd be there for you if I didn't even know you needed me in the first place?"

The tears go unnoticed, because Nathan is looking either ahead of him or down at their interlocked hands. "I knew you'd be there," he says. "That wasn't a question. You didn't even want to go when— " He shakes his head, not really wishing to summon up that memory of lying in bed with all those burns. Too much pain to recall. "And no, you weren't right. You're good enough, more than— it's not even— " A frustrated sigh. "There's no such thing as 'good enough'. I love you. You'd have been there for me."

Nathan hazards a glance her way, uncertain if she's getting this, or believing him, but he has nothing left but the truth. He can't force her to accept it. "What was I meant to do. There was too much to explain. About Claire, about what I can do, what she can do. About how I kept it secret for as long as I did. What does that make me? I wasn't looking forward to finding out."

He keeps Heidi's palm against his, now gently sliding his fingers between her's. "Mara met me when I wasn't pretending to be anything. She didn't expect anything from me. Not at first."

"Then /what?/" Her voice breaks at this point, but it's a quiet sound, not quite desperate. "If you knew I would be there, then /why?/" She still doesn't get it, and may never get it entirely. She thought she was doing everything right - she gave him his space, supported him, smiled even if she wasn't in the mood, and no matter how many times she says it, he doesn't get that he doesn't have to pretend to be anything around her. Everything he is, everything he ever was or will be, it's all meant to be laid bare before her, because she married him with the understanding that she would stay with him through the good, the bad, and even the strange, unspoken as it was.

"I wish I could take you back and show you what would have happened if — it all comes from the fact that I'm not… Like you, or her. Peter. Elena." Even if she's trying to believe it's not true, Nathan's pretty much told her that its because he couldn't share this with her. Maybe it was for a good reason, but, to use a cliche, she's standing out in the cold now, looking in. And she's just realised that she's been standing in the cold /the whole time./

To know that he went to Mara because of it… She had something that Heidi didn't - no expectations, a secret that they both had to keep from the world. It was, as Nathan said before, up to circumstance, and that's what's making Heidi so miserable. "There's nothing left for you to tell me, is there? Nothing you could say so I can prove to you that I wouldn't judge you. It's all in the open now."

Nathan shuts his eyes, here. "Heidi, I'm just— I'm telling you what's been done," he says. His voice is oddly sedate, as if he's trying to keep things in check. "I /know/ it wasn't the right thing to do. I should have trusted you. I just wanted to be a good… hell, even just a normal husband."

He releases her hand in favour of running his own through his hair, almost tugging in frustration. "I thought that if I told you everything, you'd hate it. Turns out you just hate that I didn't tell you." He rests his hands on his knees. "I dunno what else I'm supposed to be doing, here. It's already established that I fucked up, I'm not defending myself. I'm not saying I was right. If you want to explain to me again how I was wrong, then by all means, keep going, but I agree with you. I've been wrong about a lot, Heidi, nothing's the same anymore." He sounds bitter, angry, upset - not so much at her, just at the situation in which he finds himself.

Maybe she's pushing him. He knows and nothing she can tell him otherwise is something he hasn't already heard. So what does she do now, keep repeating herself in hopes that he says something else? Why isn't it good enough? It's always been good enough before! Now, though, there's the feeling that something is being left out, even if he's said everything there is to say. Is this how she's always going to feel?

That's… the whole thing, though. There's nothing that can be done to change this. There's no undo button on life. She can't just go back and make it so certain things never happened; there's no dialogue box she can click with the question 'Tell Heidi you can Fly? Y/N' It's be so much simpler if she could view life from outside a box, but…

How can she tell him what she wants when she doesn't even know? Heidi would love for him to hold her, or lean his face into her hair, or smile like he did when they met. "You already know what's wrong. I just want to make it right." She laughs, though it's humourless. "All this time, and you didn't know me at all. I didn't know you. What were we doing?" She can hear the bitterness, and she /does/ know him enough to recognise the self-frustration. She reaches out, taking his hand again. "I won't give up on you, okay? I know this isn't how you wanted things to be… But we can work through it. I just need to figure out where I'm supposed to start."

Nathan's gaze flicks to where her hand takes his. It only takes him a second to shift his hand enough to return the touch. She wants this still. Even though when she finally lets him open up, all he has are stale excuses and nothing to say for himself. And no magical solution. He just wants to hold her again but they've barely touched, although this is a start.

He finally looks back at her, properly, and his other hand comes to clasp hers. "I'm trying to figure that out too," he admits. It'd be easier if he could look back on all he's done and figure out exactly what went wrong, what he really regrets. A lot, of course, but nothing specific, nothing that doesn't have a reason for it happening. He can't regret lying to her about his powers, because he still believes it's what he had to do. Hurting her, though. That's what kills him. "This isn't going to happen again. With Mara, with keeping things from you. You know that, right? Gimme a shot at doing this right. That's all I need."

Of course she wants this. She's not sure if it makes her weak or strong or somewhere in between that she can't give him up. And even if Heidi's in that limbo right now, she's comforted by that touch, that he's holding her hand. It's not much; it's like starting from the beginning, and maybe this time they'll get to know each other a little better. Despite the familiarity, it's still hard to smile, to see this as anything other than…

…Another lie?

She doesn't wan't to start thinking that way, but the damage has already been done. That's the entire issue here, so when Nathan asks her if she knows that this isn't going to happen again, her look is incredulous. She stares at him; it's painful. "No, Nathan, I don't. I'm giving you a chance, yes, but— You don't understand. I trusted you, I never doubted you, and I'd like to believe you again, but that's what's going to take time." The whole thing rested on her ability to trust him. "This isn't… This isn't 'I like that dress' when you don't. This is 'I promised to be faithful' and you weren't." It's a whole different classification.

Nathan is disliking this conversation. On occasion there will be moments of hope, windows of opportunity, but it doesn't even matter due to the inevitable conclusion that things can't be the same again. When she looks at him like that, with disbelief mingled with pain, likely frustration too - it's like he's a kid who needs help with his homework but just isn't getting it and she's told him the same equation forty thousand times don't you /see/ this is how it fits together because x multiplied by y gets you…

…time. How is he meant to give her time. Space? Separation? He simply looks away, but doesn't let go of her hand. "Fine, you're giving me a chance," he says. "Appreciated. Now what? I behave until you say it's okay again?"

Heidi's not thrilled about this conversation, either. They shouldn't have ever had to have it, but they are, and now they have to fix it. /They./ Not just him. That's still something he's not grasping. This isn't just his responsibility - he messed up, yes, but in order to make this better, it's up to her, too.

Her other hand reaches up for his face, and… there's a smile. Sad, but it's there. "No. I'm not making this an ultimatum, Nathan. I'm not going to be watching you or looking over your shoulder all the time. We both know that's not even /near/ what's going to fix things. It's going to take time, but it's not just all on you. This is both of us, and I intend to work on this, too, for a long time if I have to." Which, she will have to, because Heidi can't get it out of her head that something she did - or didn't do - caused this.

"And I know I can't fly or shoot lasers or whatever, but I… Can be special, too, if you want me to be."

That statement is just so ridiculous, in a heartbreaking way. For a moment, there's just a bewildered, curious kind of disbelief in his eyes, studying her features. She can't possibly think these powers are— she does, though. And who's to say he hasn't encouraged this notion, if only through actions?

Nathan's arm goes around her shoulders. "You don't need to be able to shoot lasers, trust me on that," he says, lightly teasing her, because those eyes are like /neon/ blue, but there's definitely an undercurrent of sincerity. He kisses her temple, rests his head against hers, almost gratefully. "Love you. I'm sorry." Two things he's quite certain need to be said, a lot, ad nauseum, some more, so he says them both together, quietly, almost too quiet to hear save for the fact they're sitting so close.

She's allowed to have insecurities. Maybe before the accident, they weren't as pronounced, but now, with all this stuff happening… Yes, she's made some sort of correlation between powers and worthiness, in a way. Though it's not entirely true, it is, in a way. Nathan went to Mara because he didn't have to worry about lying to her, because she's like him, and… Heidi's not.

The comment on her eyes draws a brief chuckle. "Oh, come on," she mutters, looking at the floor. She doesn't pull away when he kisses her, even finds the contact more comforting than she thought she would at this stage - because she wants it, because she doesn't want to fear that he'll stray again, because she doesn't want to ruin this second chance before either of them even try - who knows the exact reasoning.

"I love you, too. That's why I'm still here." Quietly, almost as quiet as Nathan. That's why she's not on a plane to, say, Spain or something. It's all about the fact that she can't give up on them.

Perhaps that is true. Perhaps Nathan found some comfort in Mara because she is like him and Heidi's not. All he knows is that whatever the similarity is… it has nothing to do with power. Impossible to explain out loud, however.

He missed this. Simple contact, even if it doesn't mean things are fixed - this isn't even the beginning, really, just a marker of acceptance. But at least Nathan can pretend for a moment that he's simply holding his wife and all is okay beyond that. "Staying in here tonight?" he asks after a few moments. Somehow, he manages to make this question unassuming, not even hopeful.

Things can be okay again. She knows this, because she's seen what it's like to get past the hard stuff and live some kind of normal life. Everything leaves a scar, and this won't be an exception, but at least it'll fade and one day, it'll stop hurting, and she won't think about it quite as much. Right now, though, it still hurts like hell.

Is she staying in here? The question gives her pause, she thinks about it, then shakes her head. She's not ready for that, she won't sleep. "Soon," she says. Reaching up, Heidi touches Nathan's face again, smiles, then stands. "I'll be in the next room, though." So— do something special. Breakfast in bed, or something fun like that. She already knows he has it in him. Picking up her laptop from the bed, she closes it, heads out.

Hey, at least it's progress.

Yeah. No surprise with that answer. Nathan doesn't look too cut up, though, he doesn't really have much of a right to. So he returns her smile with a hint of his own, staying put and offering an almost sarcastic wave. Once she's gone, door closed, he sighs, and rests his head back against the bed, eyes shut.

Progress is complicated.

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