The Eugenics Wars, while terrible, were of small notice Gabriel Gray and Peter Petrelli in their youth. They heard news of the devastation, of course, and reports of oversea countries being overthrown by augmented humans such as Khan Noonien Singh, but aside from some small incursions in the southern part of the country the United States was not dramatically infected... at first. The rolls of media footage depicting oversea carnage was difficult to ignore, of course; the superhuman tyrant of North Africa slaughtered over a million citizens in his first year of power before falling in a bloody coup, and discussions about sending war-aid were centerpiece on every news station. The massacre at a United Nations conference by the Serbian dictator Hunyadi further cemented the entire augment population as an enemy to be wiped from existence.
Terror briefly rocked the States when it was revealed that a militant cultist group under an augmented human had existed for years right in the center of the nation. Following race riots in Los Angeles resulted in further upheaval and widespread panic that only fueled suspicion toward augments, and by apparent association science in general; religious fervor gripped the nation, and largely forgotten ideas of racism and bigotry were sadly resurrected.
The United States, which had previously only supported insurgent groups and allied countries in more peripheral ways, lent themselves wholly to the war following a nuclear strike on San Diego committed by the 'Great Khanate', which stretched throughout the Southeast and Middle East, encompassing as well almost half of Africa; Australia was technically neutral, but in reality kept under the Khanate's heel. The elusive Khan Noonien Singh stationed himself in Chandigargh India, aloof and menacing as he reigned his Empire in place of those nations once called Algeria, Iraq, Nepal, Libya, Yemen, China...
In the end the death toll was 30 million, over the entire world; some argued it was so high as 37 million.
And yet, what can pierce through the arrogance of youth? Gabriel Gray was a simple watchmaker at the time of the wars, easily ignoring the horrible issue and relegating it to the back of his mind as something for other people to take care of; Peter Petrelli was only fifteen when the Great Wars ended, in no position to either become involved or truly grasp the tragedy's significance.
Which should have been fine, really. The war ended without either of their involvement; the world began its long, arduous recovery, and certainly both became too caught up in their own ability-related apocalyptic scenarios in the early twenty-first century to spare much thought for what seemed to them an inconsequential past in comparison. Which it should have been.
Then: a carnival in New York City, a riot that attracted media attention. An eighteen-year-old college freshman walked up to the video cameras, full of defiance after a shocking fall from a ferris wheel that left her bloodied figure perfectly healthy.
“My name is Claire Bennet,” screamed every television by the next day, repeated in endless loop. “And that was attempt number... I guess I've kind of lost count.”
“It's a brave new world,” Gabriel told Peter as they left the carnival.
In truth, the world was cowardly.
Gabriel, for lack of a better place to go, stays in Peter's cramped apartment that night. They have technically spent three years alone after the psychedelic experience in Gabriel's head, so they move around each other now with quiet, unconscious ease, the arrangement perfectly natural to them both. Indeed, the blare of noise and motion outside is much more confusing.
“This feels like a dream,” Peter says quietly, echoing Gabriel's thought.
“We were in a dream. This is reality.”
A pause. Peter tilts his head back to stare at the ceiling, then looks to his lone television, small and muted, as Claire's face tentatively appears by the newscaster.
“No,” he disagrees. “This is a nightmare.”
Peter is a nurse, if an absurdly truant one. He leaves to plead for his job, and Gabriel decides to walk around and gauge the public opinion.
It isn't good.
“It's the Great Wars all over again,” everyone is saying. “A new race of Khan's and Hunyadi's. Superhuman terrorists.”
Gabriel wants to stop, to argue with some of those commentors, but he does not do so for two reasons. First simply that he does not wish to attract attention. More strikingly, though, he feels it would be rather hypocritical to argue the point when he has spent the last two years using his abilities for a killing-spree in the pursuit of power.
Were it not for the four years trapped within his own mind, three of those with Peter, the prospect of becoming the next Khan would seem quite pretty indeed.
In fact, it's still a little tempting...
But Gabriel slams down on the treacherous thought. He heads back to Peter's apartment.
“Freaks of nature.”
“Do you think they're augments? Leftovers? Failed experiments?”
“Oh my god, if she can't die, how could we stop her from doing anything...?”
Claire is not a threat, would never think to use her miraculous gift against the people. The people don't know that, though.
The next overheard whisper has Gabriel forgoing anonymity for an all-out sprint, and he barely restrains himself from flying.
Claire has been captured.
The government wants to find out how to kill her.
Peter is not surprised. “I guess Emma told some people about what happened – about her gift.” A pause. “She wasn't at the hospital, and she wasn't at her house, either.”
He doesn't need to elaborate, and Gabriel closes his eyes. Distantly, he feels an odd pang of loss; he'd barely met the woman, but he'd also saved her life – saved her, won her gratitude, in a world where everyone who knew his name would gladly have him dead... except for Peter. Of course she would be the first taken. Of course.
“Bennet called,” Peter says the next day. “He'll be out of touch for awhile; he's looking for Claire, with her girlfriend.”
Gabriel stiffens, then nods.
Peter studies him. “You always had an odd interest in her,” he prompts, not quite asking. “Like she was... different.”
“She is,” is Gabriel's affirmation, and his mind sticks on girlfriend.
Peter is quiet for a moment; Gabriel is struck, suddenly, by the memory that he is Claire's uncle. “Different objectively,” Peter asks, “or just to you?”
“Is there a difference?” Gabriel evades.
“I think you just answered the question.”
One day, as Peter will relate to Gabriel later, images of the late Senator Nathan Petrelli roll across a tiny television in the hospital as Peter is on break. Hesam frowns at the screen, thoughtfully, eyes glancing over to Peter along with those of a few others. The report is reviewing Nathan Petrelli's odd withdrawal from office, his downward spiral, his disappearances. It's just a way of comparing him to the present Senator, but Hesam is still staring.
“If you're wondering, I don't know what was going on with him,” Peter lies, and hopes Hesam will be abashed enough to go away.
Instead Hesam asks, “Didn't you once claim you could fly?” as the article of Peter's apparent suicide attempt blows up on the screen.
“I'm going to kill them,” Gabriel declares.
“That would be pretty counterproductive to the whole redemption thing.”
“They threw you out a window.”
“Because they thought I could fly.”
“And if you had, you doubtlessly would have been shot, or arrested.”
“Keep your voice down!” Peter's gaze darts outside through the translucent hospital-room window. Hesam sits out there, alone, looking guilty; he hadn't participated in the Peter's defenestration from the hospital's eighth-floor storeroom, but his comment had sparked it.
“It might be best,” Peter adds, in a whisper, “if I can fly, in case someone tries again – do you mind - ?”
“You don't even have to ask,” Gabriel says, “But you might want to wait until we check you out. Unbroken ribs would be a pretty big hint, too.
One week before Easter the call comes in; Ando was discovered using his red-lightning. He was killed in a sudden mob within minutes, with Hiro entirely unaware.
Gabriel never knew Ando, not really. Even Peter only knew the Japanese man in a distant sense, a far-off ally, but they are bound together by something stronger; genetics.
They invite Hiro for Christmas, in sympathy; he refuses.
“America is not a good place for us,” he says. Gabriel remembers dimly that this man was once bright and energetic and full of life, hyperactive with naïve sentiment and a fairy-tale moral code of heroism and honor. Now he just sounds sad. “Japan is bad, too, but the government does not have money to run checks on citizens, or organization to do so. We still recover from Khan's reign.”
“You can teleport and time travel, Hiro,” Peter argues. “They can't catch you.”
“I have been caught before,” is Hiro's reply to this. “And I cannot be a hero if I am dead.”
Matt Parker is found next. Someone recognizes him, maybe an old soldier from Nathan's scheme or a member of the now-defunct Company, a company that once seemed evil but is now remembered by Gabriel almost wistfully in comparison to the present.
Matt is missing, presumed dead. Most likely he used his mind-tricks to escape, but Peter grieves.
(Gabriel pretends to, for Peter's sake, but he's always hated that fat, scheming sonofabitch. Peter is probably aware of this, but he acts grateful anyway).
Chandra Suresh's once-mocked book, Activating Evolution, becomes contraband. Possession, the newscasters claim, warrants inquisition outside the restrictions of the Geneva Convention. There is no trial necessary for the execution of 'specials'. Not even for children.
Gabriel retains eight copies; Peter has five.
By the time this news is cast, it's also reported that Mohinder Suresh, the only son of Chandra Suresh and a researcher dedicated to the same cause, is missing...
Gabriel isn't home when the call comes, but Peter flings himself into his shop panting for breath.
“Bennet found her,” he says. “Give me your powers, we need to go.”
They fly to an isolated facility in Nevada, a barren and desolate land with no one around for miles.
And it's frightening, really, how easy the whole thing is.
There are cameras, computerized locks, and sensors attached to the facility, doubtlessly state of the art; Gabriel short-circuits them. Guards see them; Peter distorts the frequency of their radios. The guards shoot; Gabriel freezes the bullets. Peter knocks two unconscious and Gabriel questions a third, using his lie-detection skills to ignore false information, and then knocks out that guard, too. Noah follows behind, sharp-eyed but, essentially, useless.
However unjust all this prejudice is, Gabriel thinks, the government isn't entirely unreasonable to fear specials.
Claire Bennet is a shadow of herself. In every physical respect she seems little altered, save for a shaved head; but her eyes are dull, and even the unexpected sight of them only brings a soft, shocked sigh of “Sylar!” as she winces away. The sight of Peter and her own father doesn't seem to register.
She lays limp and listless as Noah Bennet heaves her into his arms, and they leave exactly as they came.
But partway back Peter slows, slows, stills. Noah keeps moving, but Gabriel pauses. “Peter?”
“How could they do it to her?”
“People are sick,” Gabriel says absently; he counts himself among those people, and nothing much surprises him, these days. “Hurry up.”
“But how could they? Enjoy it, bear it, think any of this justified...” Peter's voice lowers to a murmur; he starts to shift, walking slowly to the unconscious body of a soldier settled against the wall.
Gabriel understands. “No, Peter!”
A red, dripping line starts to streak across the man's head, and Gabriel raises his hand.
Peter crumples against the ground, body shaking with electric spasms. Gabriel holds the grip for a long while, long enough that a normal human might die, but Peter still has Gabriel's own second-hand regeneration. “What?” Peter gasps, and then, seeing the man, realizes. “Is he - “
“He's fine,” says Gabriel. “Let's go see Claire, though – quickly.
Peter doesn't protest.
Peter absorbs Claire's ability as soon as they're able to settle into an old motel. It seems a shame, taking one power in place of so many, but as Peter explains it,
“That power – your actual one – I can't take it, Gabriel. Maybe I could, I mean, you're reformed – but the temptation... even as an empath, it's too much.”
The explanation is simple enough. But Peter's eyes, flickering to the doorway separating their room from Claire and Bennet, say something different. It's not your fault, they say. It's natural, it's not really you, you're goodbetterdifferent and it's not your fault -
Gabriel looks away, and says nothing, because of course, of course it is.
Things get worse.
Concentration camps, for specials with less offensive powers – those who can breathe underwater, see in the dark. Others – most – are spirited away to somewhere deep and dark and secret. Or so it's whispered among the 'fully' human population. The specials are more of the opinion that people are being killed, all over the world, and a clandestine visit from Peter to a little girl named Molly seems to confirm this.
(It's a little harder to be sure after Molly goes missing, too; but it's still a good bet).
Claire is a Petrelli in her heart, and with Gretchen's unwavering support and the somewhat smothering watch of her adoptive father and Peter she makes a steady recovery. She refuses to talk to Gabriel, though, however much he apologizes.
“If Sylar wants to reform, fine,” she says, “But that doesn't mean there can't be consequences.” She addresses Peter, ignoring Gabriel entirely. “He killed my dad, Peter. He cut my head open and hurt my friends and I can't – you can't just expect me to forget that. God, he killed your brother.”
“But that was Sylar,” is Peter's argument, stubborn and unwavering. “This is Gabriel.”
“The courts wouldn't make that distinction,” Claire argues, “and neither will I. You say he was in mental prison for four years, fine. Good. But I'm pretty sure a hundred or so counts of murder warrants a little longer than that.”
But Claire won't rat him out, won't tell anyone where the mass-murderer Sylar is prowling – Gabriel knows that. Because they are in this together, they are all 'special', and in some way that has always bonded them together, all of them, and it always will.
In their case, though – the case of Peter and Claire and Gabriel – this is a little too literal.
The Shanti Virus was destroyed, Peter thought, melted in his own hands when he ruled the atom and controlled nuclear fusion in the grip of his palm. No trace of it should exist. The virus should be eradicated, and specials should be safe.
'Should' is the keyword.
The public knows it only as Strain 224, and it differs from all previous strains, apocalyptic varieties included. It is genocidal, but selective; it kills, but it only kills specials.
Humans are carriers, and the virus spreads like a plague. The CMO of Nakamura Industries, papers declare, has suffered a sudden illness. Tracy Strauss cannot be reached. But there is hope for a cure, certainly. There is always room for hope, has always been room for hope. Disaster has been averted so often – surely this cannot actually doom all the specials.
The two flee to Delaware, a few innocent miles from where Claire now lives, and buy a house under the names Peter and Gabriel Grayson just after Peter's mother catches the Virus and passes. Even her own son, cool and distant, mourns only briefly, and never in public – her Virus was a confirmed cause of death, and the news of Peter's ability, as the brother of a once-Senator, hits the front pages. Peter thinks it's a little funny that he is more well-known than Gabriel, his face flashing across the news uselessly as he hides indoors. Gabriel is somewhat disappointed.
But at least his own anonymity means Gabriel can open a watch-shop. So he supposes the situation isn't, really, that horrible.
Peter has been ranging the countryside searching for specials to help; his face is on the news constantly, but he is never caught. He searches in vain to find news of Mohinder Suresh, whose blood once held the cure to the Shanti Virus, and every whisper says that the man is dead.
And in this interim Gabriel, somehow, ends up adopting a child.
Noah Grayson. Peter is visibly startled when Gabriel (belatedly) tells him this news, but it's something more than just the adoption itself disturbing him. He refuses to explain. “At least we don't live in Costa Verde,” is his only cryptic comment.
Peter gets a little twitchy whenever Gabriel makes Noah waffles. Spiteful because of the secrecy, Gabriel makes them twice a week.
“My daughter was a special,” a tearful man whispers, and his voice carries in the tired morning of the coffee shop. Gabriel glances over to a small table in the corner, two sober men speaking in low voices. “The Virus, it killed her – she was only eight.”
Gabriel turns and walks away.
“We're immune,” Peter decides.
It's obvious that their regenerative abilities protect the three, Claire, Peter and Gabriel, but that seems so inconsequential when half of their acquaintances are dying...
Peter is home more and more often now, reading or watching television (never the news) or sometimes just staring out the window, listlessly, until the sunlight dims and his face is silver-blue in the light of the stars.
“Why don't you search for specials anymore?” Gabriel questions one day. “I thought you wanted to help others like us?”
“I did,” responds Peter, faintly. “I do.”
“Then why don't you?”
Peter watches the stars, and says, “Because they're all dead.”
Maybe, people say now, it was a mistake. An overreaction. Children dead left and right, whole lines wiped out – respectable families, many of them, doctors and teachers and officers, many with loving friends and relations Dead, more than a million dead, and for what? For fear, for paranoia, to assure the public...
Maybe we were wrong, whisper the adults.
What an awful mistake! Proclaim the children. I can't imagine...
And they can't, they can't, and it's all a matter of oh-too-bad because the Virus is gone, because the specials are gone – dead – and now there are only three.
“Dad, people think we're brothers!” Noah laughs one day. “I wish I had your genes. I found an early gray hair yesterday, you know? How do you do it?”
Gabriel treats this jocular comment with more thoughtfulness than Noah thinks it warrants, then says, “I think we need to have a talk.”
When Noah Bennet dies Gabriel attends the funeral with a stolen identity. Peter arrives as himself, for who would recognize the youthful face blared across the nation decades back, a face surely dead and six feet deep?
Claire goes, too, and also as herself. She sits in the family section with her brother, and when people ask she says she is Bennet's grandaughter, and yes, it is certainly a shame she could not know him longer.
“He's not your dad,” Noah Grayson's new wife, Lizzie, protests. Gabriel had attended their wedding in disguise, under pseudonym, and now they're meeting for the first time. “You look older than he does!”
“Yeah, I need to talk to you about that.”
Noah Grayson has a son in the year 2045. Gabriel waits with him in the emergency room, but when people ask how he knows the couple he says “Oh, Noah's my older brother.”
When Noah proudly displays Gabriel's grandson, Henry, Gabriel smiles down at the baby and knows he will live to see its death.
After Gretchen dies Claire becomes numb to her feud with Sylar simply because she is numb to everything. A year later he learns from Peter that she is experimenting with methods of suicide. She is on what she calls 'attempt number eighty-five' and is still searching.
Peter is listless, these days. He reads and writes books (depressing tear-jerkers, all of them) and occasionally, because he is a hopeless romantic at heart, he dates women. Gabriel is perplexed by this, mostly because Peter seems to fall sincerely, fiercely in love with each one.
And then there is a comment - “Oh, my father's funeral - “ “My next birthday - “ “When I retire - “
Quickly Peter will remember that he will never have a funeral, that he doesn't remember the real, depressing date that signifies his uncelebrated age, that he can retire in name but will physically never have the need. So sometimes that is the end, and sometimes, helplessly, he remains in a bitter entanglement as his latest woman, Jane or Beth or Michelle, grows older and heavier and settled, starting to eye him suspiciously.
Once he marries, for all of a year, and Gabriel sincerely congratulates him. Her name is Anna and her is hair is strawberry blonde. She loves Henry and collects watches, both habits of which Gabriel can approve, and Peter is considering telling her his secret.
And then she dies in a car wreck.
Peter never considers another marriage, after that.
It's not death, but in the year 2061 (two years after Gretchen's funeral) Claire asks Peter to stick a knife in the back of her head. They store her sort-of-dead body in a pretty gilded trunk in the basement and hope to god that the police never find a reason to search the place.
They wake her up two years later to watch First Contact with the Vulcans on their antiquated television. It's a little disturbing to see how quickly her rotted flesh reforms, how the dank pits of her eyes turn clear and blue and the gray wisps around her head straighten to soft golden strands. She watches the furor that arrives with the news of alien life, then two days later comments “I wish Gretchen could have seen it,” and asks them to kill her again.
“Do you think if we burn her bones she'll stay dead?” Peter suggests.
It probably says something negative about them, or just very strange, that they don't even wake her for permission before tossing her hollow-eyed 'corpse' on a pyre. She burns. When her body is gone and ashes remain, the knife falls away and slowly, painfully, she reforms.
She stays awake one day and can't feel cold enough. They stick her in the trunk again and bury it under the basement.
Gabriel sympathizes, a little, but knows he won't ever understand. The most important person in Claire's life is dead. The most important person in his life is immortal.
Is it wrong to feel a little smug?
(Peter tells him it is, but Peter also finds nothing addictive about blood or tears, so Gabriel thinks Peter is just a little odd anyway.)
The Vulcans, it is said, are pacifists. Entirely peaceful, despite a warlike past and a bloodlust that is engraved in their DNA. Mental control, it's said. Superior mental control, life-long conditioning. Total control of emotions, of desire, of impulse. No murder on Vulcan in over a century, the reporters claim.
When Gabriel hears that Vulcans are telepaths, he's very tempted to change that.
The news comes in bold letters, flashes of hysterical human politicians and stone-faced Vulcans. Murder at the Vulcan Embassy! Proclaims every headline. Junior aide found with head cut open and brain removed!
Peter gives Gabriel the cold shoulder for a week. Gabriel scrounges up an antique watch and inscribes Peter's name on it in clever calligraphy. Peter rolls his eyes and goes on vacation to visit Hiro (visiting from the past, for one reason or another – Gabriel doesn't ask) and when he returns seems to have forgiven Gabriel entirely.
That probably says something about them, too. Or one might just attribute it to the knife Peter pulls out of Gabriel's head on his return. Gabriel doesn't ask.
Peter starts going on longer and longer trips. A month; six; a year. Gabriel grouches, a little tentatively, about being left alone in their huge Delaware home. Peter is unsympathetic.
“Buy a dog,” is his reply. “A guy can only spend so many decades in Delaware after saving the world.”
“Do you want to part ways?”
At that, Peter's eyes soften a little. “No,” he says. “Never that. I'm just – restless. We have immortality, Gabriel – we need to do something with it!”
“See, I'm just happy to restrain from killing people,” Gabriel replies.
“It's not a big deal,” Peter continues, tactfully ignoring that last (somewhat despondent) comment. “What's a yearlong absence out of eternity?” He pauses, thoughtfully. “You know, I wonder if I could work in diplomacy... the space industry is booming...”
True to word, Peter pursues space. He's gone a year, return for three weeks, and then vanishes for a four-year period of training and work while quiet, restrained Gabriel Gray carefully forces his features to age a few years, moves, and winds watches.
“Aren't you lonely, Mr. Gray?” his customers ask. “No family? Staying in this empty shop all day?”
No one cares for custom watches anymore, for complex, beautiful pieces with a thousand tiny components. Functional is better, and digital watches the preference. Some people these days can't even read a clock, and scorn watches with a clock-face. Gabriel finds it frankly depressing, and his business is failing.
And he is lonely without Peter, but who else could he befriend? Some Joe Schmoe who would wonder why Gabriel never ages, that would die in a year, a decade, a century...
God, he was such a fool as Sylar.
Later, Peter will complain about being abandoned on Earth so abruptly. Gabriel thinks that's a little unfair. He did leave a note, after all.
Going to become a Vulcan. In case of emergency, go safe distance from Vulcan's surface and cause inexplicable nuclear explosion.
Oh, wait. You can't. Because you won't take your powers back.
See you in two centuries or so.
P.S. Annoy Claire for me. That sort of thing isn't proper for a Vulcan, is it?
The Vulcans strongly disapprove of outsiders. To the average individual, that would be a deterrent.
Gabriel Gray has never been average.
He takes the form of a senior Vulcan, well past his two hundredth year, and carefully de-ages the body. The result is an unfamiliar fifteen-year-old Vulcan. He walks up to an official, claims amnesia, and expects to be tossed in some orphanage and given the opportunity to experience Vulcan schooling firsthand. Which might be a good idea on Earth.
On a planet of telepaths? Not so much.
The Vulcans want to probe his mind to 'help' in recovering his memories. Gabriel, for obvious reasons, has to oppose that a little. His vehement protests make the Vulcans logically deduce that he is a victim of 'mind-rape', a rare and serious crime. And apparently, the trauma left by mind-rape is best cured by mind-healers. Naturally.
His increasingly frustrated denials lead to many exchanged glances. Clearly, the healers say, his control has been affected, and he is not fit for the burden of public interaction. His 'schooling', instead of including Vulcan meditation techniques, consists of staring at a computer screen as formulas and history flies past his eyes far too fast to process. He is expected to know how to meditate by now. The healers start to whisper of brain damage, and Gabriel finally gives up.
He next goes forth as a very old individual. His occasional outbursts of emotion and the occasional cultural faux pas are politely ignored; people assume he has 'Bendaii Syndrome' – the Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer's, he gathers – and he lives by using his powers to steal food and water and sleeps under the shade of the mountains near Shikahr. Peter would wholly disapprove, which makes the entire venture much more bearable.
Gabriel travels throughout Vulcan as that ancient creature for decades under the name of 'Sylar' (Vulcans and their S-names – how could he resist?) before finally, inevitably, giving up.
Being Vulcan is clearly not so easy. So he returns to Earth in 2203, in failure, thinking to visit Peter again – but he never gets that far.
“Grandpa!” Henry Grayson cries when Gabriel shows up at the door, to general confusion. Henry is himself old and gray-haired, and with a son, grandson, and newborn great-granddaughter of his own.
“Dad?” Is Jacob Grayson's wary remark. “Who's this?”
“Your great-grandfather!” Henry exclaims. He pats Gabriel's shoulder enthusiastically. Jacob dubiously regards the slender figure of Gabriel, who retains all the slim fitness of youth and a full head of black hair.
Henry ignores his son's skepticism, moving to introduce the visiting form of Patrick Grayson, and “this, sir, is your granddaughter – Amanda.”
His first female descendant. Somehow, Gabriel knows, this is important. He ignores the protesting figure of Jacob to pick her up, thoughtfully looking into the baby's deep blue eyes.
Maybe Earth won't be so bad after all.
Gabriel isn't sure why a watch-shop is always his default. In this technology-based world the profession leaves him a pauper, but a proud one. He moves to New York when the Graysons do, Jacob and Patrick having uneasily become accustomed to his un-aging presence. Amanda shows none of their reticence around 'Grandpa Gabriel', who in public is just a distant cousin.
When Amanda is a young woman of twenty trying for her teaching certificate she tells Gabriel, “I can't imagine how wonderful it would be, keeping such close ties to all of your descendants! I wish I could be sure I'd know my children's children so well. It's like a fairy-tale.”
Gabriel smiles at her, a little wistful. “But I also get to watch those children die.”
Amanda kisses his cheek. “Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all,” she quotes softly.
Gabriel wonders if Amanda would still say that if she had murdered the one love of her life, and is silent.
“Dad and Grandpa never knew you, not really,” she tells him. “I can imagine it seems a little thing to run off for years and years when you're immortal, but – can you promise me that you'll visit? For me and my kids, when I have them?”
Gabriel softens, because he can truly deny her nothing. “I'd follow you across the galaxy, dear,” is his solemn promise, and she beams.
Amanda is marrying a Vulcan.
His name is Sarek, heir to the clan of Surak, and he wonders if Amanda knows what that means. He is an ambassador, diplomatic but distant, and he seems to place no special notice on Amanda's favorite but odd cousin Gabriel, the cousin the rest of the family avoids.
They have a beautiful earth-style wedding in 2226, when Amanda is just twenty-four. Sarek is stone-faced but gentle with her, and Gabriel decides that he is content with the match. He knows Vulcan well enough to know that she will not be mistreated there, and if she were – well, Amanda knows she can always call her grandfather for support.
It is 2228 when Amanda calls him to Vulcan, sobbing, and he hops on a shuttle immediately. It takes him nearly two weeks to arrive, but she is still desolate, and informs him that she had miscarried without ever knowing she was pregnant. Now she can never, ever have a child.
Gabriel returns to Earth weeks after his visit feeling lost and hungry. His main sympathy is for Amanda, but this is a blow to him as well. His line, adopted or not, is ending. Jacob and Patrick will have no more children, and Amanda can't have any, so beyond the old memory of Peter he will truly be left with no one.
It's an odd way for his hunger to manifest, but wandering through the slums of New York he hears a drunk man bragging about the twelve bastards he has through a dozen different women. It is a mere impulse that makes Gabriel follow the man, but it is a starving need that makes Gabriel kill him, slowly and painfully, and hum to himself afterwards whilst sleeping in a pool of congealed blood.
“I need the disciplines,” he tells Amanda. “I need to learn as they do. It will just be words on paper – no care required - I'm sorry if this is a bizarre request, but - “
“Yes,” she interrupts. “God, yes.”
He steals the form of a Vulcan infant in critical care, expected to die, twitches a few organs and cells to make the form more human, and uses it.
Gabriel, now known as Spock, does his best to be quiet, unobtrusive, and self-sufficient. Amanda insists on treating him as some queer mix of Gabriel and a son, though, and Sarek despises him bitterly. Sybok, when the full-Vulcan comes to join their queer family following the death of his mother, takes to his 'younger' brother with delight. Spock wonders if one day he will watch over Sybok's descendants as as honorary uncle, and feels content.
By the time he is 'eighteen' and has been thoroughly trained in the Vulcan disciplines, right from childhood basics to the masteries, he feels ready to leave. He knows this is necessary; Amanda clings to 'Spock' like a true son, and that can't be healthy. Meanwhile Sarek outright resents him, and Sybok is exiled, possibly dead. He cannot regret the necessity of their time together – the lives of his would-be victims must, he feels, trump a small hurt to Amanda's mental health – but it's time to go.
He joins Starfleet. Why not? He has heard of long-lived races on other planets; maybe, just maybe, one will suffice for his next life.
Spock's instinctive ability to understand how things work is an incredible tool to science, and that field proves to serve as an unlooked-for outlet for his hunger. He quickly gains a reputation as a stellar scientist and is promoted to science officer of the flagship, the USS Enterprise, with relative ease. He takes pains to maintain an appropriately 'Vulcan' distance from his crewmates, though.
Emotions can only lead to pain.
Pike is a good commander, distant but intelligent. He is diligent, and never unaware of the needs of his crew. Spock truly regrets the man's leaving, but change, he has learned, is the way of things – for everyone but himself, anyway.
“Welcome aboard, Captain,” says Spock quite calmly, and it is only years of Vulcan control that stop him from freezing at the sight of Peter Petrelli walking off the transporter pad.
There is the slightest of pauses in Peter – in Captain Kirk – as the human considers him; but though Spock's form is close to that of Gabriel Gray it must be different enough to pass judgment, because Kirk says only, “At ease, gentlemen,” and moves on quite formally from there.
“I know you aren't one much for the sentiment, Spock,” Pike tells him, “But I wish you luck nonetheless.”
“And you as well, Sir,” is the uncharacteristic response. Pike responds to this uncommon courtesy with a warm smile, and makes his leave.
This leaves his own quarters quiet. This is only the third time Spock has been visited in his own quarters for the duration of his stay on the Enterprise, and yet suddenly they seem empty – and irrepressibly lonely.
Without allowing himself to deeply consider the matter he rises, exiting his quarters to walk the few meters to those of the new captain; he presses the button outside the door and is immediately greeted with a cheerful “Enter.”
Kirk looks surprised to see him; perhaps he had expected another?
“Can I help you, Lieutenant-Commander?”
“I merely thought there was some information of which you should be made aware, Captain.”
Kirk straightens, standing in front of him with a very convincing – and quite likely sincere – show of professional concern. “Which would be?”
Spock shifts his features.
For a moment, Kirk is frozen, then - “Gabriel,” he breathes.
Kirk punches him.
This is not necessarily unexpected, if unwelcome – mainly because Kirk is left cradling his hand and swearing. Vulcan bones are sturdy.
An old memory, unbidden:
“Every time you pick up that sledgehammer, I feel like you're going to hit me with it. Really hard.”
“Hmm, that's funny. Because every time I pick up this sledgehammer, I feel like I want to hit you with it too. Really hard.”
“Going to become a Vulcan,” the human mutters with disgust. Kirk glowers at the science officer. And for the first time in years, Spock has to concentrate hard just to keep himself from smiling.
Yeah. They're going to be alright.
Kirk seems to have missed Spock's presence, at least, because he pointedly seeks out the somewhat-Vulcan each day after shift. The crew remarks upon their easy rapport, and no one realizes quite how strained that relationship is compared to the years where they lived in placid company, dull and not-quite-content on earth.
When Spock enters Kirk's quarters he is unsurprised at the antique paper books, but one day he moves closer to inspect them. Moby Dick, Paradise Lost, The Sea Wolf, Brave New World, A Tale of Two Cities, The Martian Chronicles...
Then he leans forward with a slight frown, because he knows Kirk detests Fitzgerald. Yet here's The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, Tender is the Night... And all huge hardcover books, as though very special, very important.
Then he notices: they all have exactly the same thickness.
He picks one up, opens it. Spock never laughs, not anymore, but the corners of his lips do twitch up just a little.
He places it next to Pillars of the Earth in pride of place, and leaves.
“You're driving McCoy nuts. You know exactly what all those idioms mean, Spock.”
“At this point in life, Jim, one occasionally needs to make one's own entertainment.”
They play tri-D chess every week, at least, sometimes in the rec room and sometimes in private. When Spock makes his moves – always cold, logical, precise – he thinks of Sylar and murder and callous plotting. Kirk, though, slips through many of his traps with almost careless disregard, sometimes using moves that make no logical sense, and it finally occurs to Spock that his captain is trying to save as many pieces as he can. Sometimes, depending on his mood, Kirk might prioritize a pawn over the queen.
The crew thinks their games are genius battles of strategy. To Spock they're just another way of coming to terms with the past, and taking a step toward the future.
When Spock asks about Tarsus, this is what he learns;
By Federation record, written in after Cadet Kirk's claim of being a Tarsus survivor, 'Kirk' was fourteen at the time of the massacre. In reality, of course, he was somewhere around two-hundred sixty. Or thereabout. They had both stopped counting.
“That's why Kodos didn't recognize me, after all these years,” Kirk says. “He probably imagines I would be older, you know? And I've done little things to change my appearance since then.”
“The others? The children, I mean, who you saved - “
“Oh, they know. About my immortality, I mean. I was on the live-list, which was probably best, because killing me would have proved tricky; but I don't actually need to eat to survive. Have you ever tried starving? It sucks, but it's not like we die. So I smuggled out my own rations, and any other food I could steal, to a few kids I helped escape. Leighton and Riley included.”
“Mr. Riley knows, then?”
“Maybe. Possibly. It's one of the main reasons I wanted him on the Enterprise, to keep that knowledge close, but - the guy was four, you know? Likely doubts his own memory, and that's not the kind of thing you can just ask someone about. And, well, the rest are dead now, so I think we're okay.”
Spock is astonished that Kirk can even joke about Khan, the super-human they encounter on the SS Botany Bay. Khan and his fellows were the direct cause of the anti-special hatred that caused the genocide of their kind, the release of the Shanti Virus and the death of their - well, Kirk's – friends. He feels irrational hatred for Khan. When Kirk orders their exile to the M-Class planet Ceti Alpha Five, Spock fails to mention the giant, predatory animal life, or that the planet's axis is due to shift within years.
It's petty, vindictive, even cruel. But Spock rarely gets to indulge these days...
Kirk still chases woman. Edith is the most disastrous one by far, and Spock wonders if Kirk is chasing youth, or a distant past. Too distant, perhaps, for Edith was before their time, yet maybe that is attractive too. When has either one last spoken with a human who is, in some real if singular sense of the word, older?
Spock can understand, but something hot and warped twists in his stomach when he sees them. If his advice to let Edith die seems just a little too eager, well, Spock has never been tactful about death.
It means nothing.
Spock is unable to fathom, at first, why Kirk is so attached to the irascible Doctor McCoy. The physician curses the world, displays indisputable xenophobic tendencies, and his actions are often just shy of outright insubordination. Still, something about the doctor tugs at a memory, old and faded, like a word just out of reach that dangles and taunts the tongue.
It is only watching the doctor after the incident on Miri's world that Spock understands. McCoy, for all his prickliness, is also self-sacrificing, noble, and faultlessly idealistic.
He is a rude Peter Petrelli, Spock thinks, who has been embittered but cannot learn to truly hate.
He's a little easier to put with, after that. And much harder to argue with.
But Spock has always appreciated a challenge.
When Kirk is stabbed on the way to Babel Spock is by his side in an instant, picking up his captain and running to Sickbay. Everyone clears his path, assuming his headlong flight is prompted by concern.
Kirk lies very still. Spock can feel him trying not to laugh. Spock is only carrying him to ward off questions about why, exactly, an encounter with an Andorian could produce red blood stains yet no wound on the captain.
(He's the only one that knows Kirk's frequently ripped shirts should also be accompanied by death.)
It never really leaves him.
Sometimes the lust just creeps up, slamming him with curls of dark heat that coil and flare in his stomach/ The sheer need pulses through him with each breath and pierces his skull. And some cravings are worse than others. One day Ensign Turner, a gifted young woman with a photographic memory, beams up at him and excitedly gives her latest report. It includes the solution to a difficult problem that has been perplexing Spock for days.
You just need to look at the whole picture, she says. It's easy.
And there it is. He clenches his fist, imagining hot rivulets of blood streaking down her face, the delicate tearing of skin, the crunching of pierced bone. He pictures her expression, wide-eyed and stricken, a perfect little gasp – maybe a strangled moan – as her body shudders and twitches briefly because the blood loss is too much, too much, and she becomes still.
He misses it, the slow slick slide of blood over his fingers, that deep copper scent clinging to his nails, clouding his step like cigarette-smoke, something that lingers in his very skin due to overexposure. He wants to caress the soft yield of her brain, to understand what makes her – what makes her - tick -
He congratulates her. Calls the bridge to tell Kirk, quietly, he will be unavailable. Kirk doesn't question him.
Spock goes to his quarters and lights a candle. It's red like blood.
This is what meditation is for, is it not?
Spock is almost certain he has a child by Zarabeth. He wonders if this is the grandfather paradox on a larger scale, the first introduction of the 'special' gene to a human population.
Of course, there's also the possibility that his child will die before ever being born. So who knows?
The Tholian Incident is terrifying not just because of the threat to Kirk, but because that threat is so very different from the inconsequential threat of death. If Kirk dies, Spock is confident he will heal. It would be unfortunate, because Kirk might be forced to assume a new life should his death be well known, but it is acceptable.
But should Kirk simply phase from this reality... Dying there, to float around for eternity where Gabriel cannot reach him...
He will be alone. Alone, like crazed Claire rotting away in a cold Delaware cellar.
He teeters on the edge of propriety, defying logic and the needs of the many. He endangers the ship and her crew, incurring the wrath of McCoy and Scott, but they don't matter. They are mortal and weak and frail and fleeting. Kirk is a god to them, he thinks. Kirk is immortal, and what does it matter if these four-hundred souls are lost for Kirk's sake? They would die anyway. But Spock won't, and Kirk can not leave him alone, alone for eternity, alone in this infinite galaxy and the infinite stars and the madness that claws within him -
He saves both Kirk and the crew. The crew hail him as a hero, because everything worked out fine, no one is dead, their golden captain is saved. But Kirk watches him, knowing and sad and a little angry, and Spock can't meet his gaze.
He claims fatigue and spends the next four days meditating. It's not very helpful.
One day, sitting together quietly and watching the white sear of stars streaking by from the observation deck, Spock ponders the near-disastrous Tholian mission and what abilities could have saved Kirk. He turns to the captain.
“I have immortality, Captain,” he says mildly. “Would it not be to your advantage to absorb the rest of my abilities, as well?”
Kirk smiles faintly. It doesn't reach his eyes. “Not all of us have Vulcan control, my friend.” He sounds a little bitter.
Spock never asks again.
On Ardana Spock, for some reason he does not understand, openly feigns admiration and lust for a too-skinny woman by the name of Droxine. He does not fully know why, exactly, because he feels nothing for her at all. But his mind keeps wandering to memories of Kirk, and his grief after losing the woman Miramanee, and he gains some dark victory as Kirk watches his blunt flirting with a grim eye.
Gabriel Gray has made his body Vulcan, but he will never, really, be one of them.
“It is pon far,” Spock admits. “A closely-guarded Vulcan secret, which essentially amounts to a rut-cycle.”
Kirk's lips twitch. “...Really.”
Spock gives him a Look, and Kirk's straight face cracks; the man laughs. “In any case,” Spock continues pointedly, “I will need to shift into a human form until it passes, or I can determine how to skip this part of aging my body; I am not certain simple acceleration through the experience would be safe.” His older and younger forms, taken on Vulcan so long ago, had been before or past the point wherein pon far was an issue. If worst comes to worst, though, he might let the blasted sex-drive kill him and just come back to life. But it does sound excruciatingly painful. “I regret that I may be unavailable for several days.”
Kirk eyes him. “No,” Kirk disagrees. “I think we both will be.”
Spock quirks an eyebrow.
“Come now, Spock,” Kirk laughs. “It's been in the making for centuries.”
“It seems very illogical that we have only begun this aspect of our relationship after more than two centuries of life,” Spock informs Kirk one day while they rest in bed.
“Not really,” is the response. “It's like how we became friends, really, in your mind all those years ago. You do a lot of odd things with one other person around.” A pause. “I think it's finally sunk in that everyone else will just... leave. And if we didn't do this...”
“We would become similar to Claire, you are suggesting?”
“Something like that.”
“I do not feel I could share this rapport with anyone else, Jim – however long I might spend life with another individual.”
“I feel the same,” Kirk agrees. “I think we both have Stockholm Syndrome.”
Spock mulls that thought over. “Agreed. Do you suggest we desist?”
“Hell no.” And Kirk's grasp tightens. “You're not getting away from me now – not ever.”
“I believe the phrase is, 'ditto'.
The near disaster with Janice Lester shakes Spock more than he can admit. Though she was unaware, Janice would have gained Kirk's immortality with his form. First the Tholians, than this – no, no, immortality is not such a surety after all. One day Kirk will be taken from him, ripped from him, and then Spock will go mad. He will go mad and beg someone to stick a knife in his brain and bury him deep in some empty grave, entombed for a thousand years perhaps, a million, before rising again in the dust of a dead planet and spiraling, endless and alone, in the black drift of eternity...
Or, Spock thinks, watching Kirk pace the bridge, or I could forgo emotion entirely.
Spock cannot achieve Kolinahr.
Well. That is incorrect. He can, but he won't.
He hears Kirk's plea halfway across the quadrant, ringing into his mind as it had centuries ago when Kirk was Peter Petrelli and Peter Petrelli could reach into heads and scream and yell from inside. And Spock realizes that this self-imposed Vulcan exile might save the lives of a few mortals down the line, and certainly save his sanity, but it will also irretrievably damn a god. The choice is obvious.
Kirk looks old and gray and a little fat when Spock sees him again, but that's all a careful illusion. Spock himself looks more worn than any Vulcan under a hundred has any right to be, in sympathy, because he fully plans on 'dying' right alongside his captain, his friend, his savior.
He struggles, but even before V'ger's cold mind-touch Spock knows he'll never leave again.
They move to Earth, for awhile. Spock teaches at the Academy, and Kirk 'retires' to a 'family property', occasionally serving as a guest lecturer or advising Starfleet. It is peaceful, slow, and pleasant in a way Spock has never known.
Then Kirk leaves to attend the maiden voyage of the Enterprise-B.
“I'll be back in a week,” he tells Spock cheerfully. “Don't forget to water the plants.”
The next day Spock is on a Vulcan science vessel chasing a mysterious anomaly, the anomaly that stole everything, while every media station in the galaxy mourns Starfleet's hero.
The plants die.
Kirk is taken by the Nexus and Starfleet reports his death. Spock knows this is a lie, but that thought is no consolation. A death would have been preferred.
Because Kirk is floating out there in some spatial anomaly, maybe happy and maybe lost in some burning swirl of light and fire and absolute-zero ice, stung and pierced and probably dead one second and revived the next in ever-ceasing torment. Spock spends years trying to track the Nexus to no avail, and eventually concedes; he waits for new news and advancements, but life – such as it is – must go on.
It is more than a century later that he gets a call from Captain Jean-Luc Picard of – what else? - the Starship Enterprise.
“I'm sorry, Ambassador,” Picard tells him. “He sacrificed himself for all of us,” and, when prompted, “I left him on the planet, buried. It seemed fitting.”
He commandeers a ship – oh, the joys of diplomatic immunity – and steals across the stars to the tiny, fateful planet that crossed paths with the Nexus of 'Joy'.
“It took you long enough,” Kirk snorts.
Spock smiles, and doesn't even care for his damned Vulcan dignity. “You lied to me, Peter.”
Kirk – Peter – quirks an eyebrow.
“You said you'd never leave,” he chides softly.
Peter snorts. “I'm here now, aren't I?”
And they're clinging together, tightly, tightly. “What did you see?” Spock – Gabriel – asks. “In the Nexus?”
“I married a thousand different people,” Peter informs him. “And we all grew old and died together. A thousand different lives. I died at the age of five, once. That was a nice death.” A pause. Something lingers between them, something soft, unspoken, and Gabriel would be content but Peter, sentimental to the last, says it anyway. “You were there, in some form, in each fantasy.”
A pause. “Do you miss it?”
Peter purses his lips thoughtfully. “Too much of a good thing,” he quotes softly. “No. I'm – glad to be back. With you.”
Gabriel exhales, softly. “We need a vacation.”
“We would make spectacular pirates,” says Peter wistfully.
“I approve of the idea of a luxurious mansion on Risa, but I suspect you are alluding to a more Robin-hood scenario.”
“Future-me had an eyepatch, once.”
“Your eyes can't even be harmed.”
Peter gives him a Look.
“...” A sigh. It's a little too pleased to be convincing. “I shall require a month to fake my death.”
The last of his doubt falters in the face of Peter's blinding smile.
Ambassador Spock really does have pressing responsibilities, but nothing in comparison to the debt he owes this man, the man who saved him from himself. The galaxy will move on without him.
His last thought, as he enters the ship with Peter, is, the Romulan Empire will just have to find another savior.
They have plenty of time, right?