With A Price


f_edward_icon.gif f_nathan_icon.gif

Scene Title With A Price
Synopsis Edward stops by to make sure Mr. President knows what he's doing.
Date May 10, 2009

The White House

In the novel Das Wagnerbuch, the character Faust makes a pact with the devil for knowledge. The term 'Faustian' has come to encompass many such arrangements, where the ultimate reward outweighs the risks entailed in receiving them.

It's strange to see these walls, these faces, and be so tightly wrapped up in these predicaments again after so many years of seperation from them. A decade has done little to dull Nathan Petrelli's sense of being overwhelmed upon setting foot into the White House. Days after supplanting his past self, the older and — presumably — wiser Nathan finds himself once more strolling through its opulent halls.

It is an allegorical tale designed to teach a moral lesson, that sometimes the easiest path to a goal is not the safest.

"Oh— no you've been a wonderful host." It's that voice Nathan just barely heard from the direction of the Lincoln Sitting Room that causes him to pause on his way towards the Oval Office. "I must say, I had no idea that Nathan had such a stunning wife," there's a momentary falter, "the ah— television does little to emphasize your generous nature and kindness, Heidi." Another falter, "May I call you Heidi?"

It is a story to warn that not all arrangements are what they appear on the surface, that not all those who offer salvation have your best interests in mind.

Rounding the corner and passing by a member of White House security, Nathan comes to the door of the sitting room, catching the sight of Heidi standing beside one of the tables, looking down to a small man seated on one of the antique lounge chairs, his short, dark hair swept back in a manner which emphasizes his receeding hairline. The glare of light reflecting off of his circular-lensed glasses catches Nathan, and the voice is compiled with the face, bringing the same name to Nathan's lips that spills from Heidi's lips. "You're too kind, Mister Ray."

It is a story that reminds us…

"Nonsense." He notes with a raise of both brows, "but I'm sure you're getting bored of listening to my stories. Feel free to run along, I'm sure Nathan will be around to see me when he has time." A sly smile creeps across Edward's lips as he leans back into the chair, bringing a white ceramic cup to his lips. "The tea, by the way, is wonderful."

…that all things come with a price.

It might not be too far out of the box, for Nathan to be hallucinating this. It's all he can do to not hit the all too familiar panic button and freeze time, specifically so he has a moment or three to comprehend what's going on. It's an excellent short hand and makes him wonder what he did without it.

Youth, maybe. Not being a time traveling criminal.

Small things.

He resists the urge, this time. "Mister Ray," Nathan brings himself to saying, out loud, a smile ready in place for when both his wife and the doctor turn their different gazes towards him. Heidi's eyes of neon blue and Edward's round glasses catching the light's glare. Nathan's own eyes betray nothing. Slipping into the role of the politician was about as hard as remembering how to tie a tie.

Which is to say, it's second nature. Dressed in a finely tailored suit Nathan is proud to say he can squeeze into even after ten years, he enters the room a little further. "What a surprise, I'm not interrupting anything am I?"

"I was just about to go," Heidi negates with a smile on her pale features, coloured up with impeccable cosmetics.

"No interruptions at all, Mister President." There's almost a tongue-in-cheek way in which Edwars states that, taking a sip of his tea quietly. "I was enjoying the wonderful hospitality of your wife," a nod of his head towards Heidi, "while waiting to see if you were free." The questions of how Edward got into the White House, past security, into the Lincoln Sitting Room and into a conversation with Heidi without anyone realizing he doesn't belong here seems like the logical thing to wonder.

"Oh, and I did have the intentions of seeing the Vice President today as well, but I figure why settle for second best when you have the prime cut right there, hm?" His mannerisms seem entirely different, more flighty and aloof, like a mask tugged on over his usually stoic and cold countenance. It seems to be a running theme in the White House these days — masks.

The twist of mocking in Edward's voice doesn't go ignored, if not reacted to. Everyone is playacting today. Heidi is already making her quiet footed way out that reminds him, in some ways, of the way his mother can mince around unheard. Yet another face of the past Nathan has managed to avoid. He touches her arm on the way out, is briefly dazed by a bright, painted smile, before she's leaving to the two men in peace. Guy talk.

"I'm free," Nathan says, words clipped, and that isn't without irony too. He spares a glance over his shoulder to make sure Heidi has disappeared around the corner, before he lets some of the mask fall. His scowl, restrained though it may be, makes him look a little closer to his fifty-one years of living. He speaks quietly, tone brittle. "You think this was a smart idea? How the hell'd you get in here?"

"Putting together some fake credentials was a little side-project of Reed's I gave to him a while ago." Edward's brows rise up as he takes another casual sip of his tea. "But really, after everything I've managed to pull together you think sneaking into the White House is a surprising thing?" He grimaces slightly, "At least this time your mother and that tall, dark friend of hers aren't clubbing me about the head and neck. It's good to see that our relationship has grown."

Leaning forward, Edward's expression begins to change as he talks as well, that almost goofy absent-minded-professor act slipping away for something steelier as he settles his teacup down on the saucer. "I came here, Nathan, to deliver you your next orders. You didn't think that all of this would just end with you getting a new lease on life, did you?" Edward's brows furrow together, head canting to one side.

"There's some specific courses of action you need to take here, and time is — quite literally — of the essence." Looking down into the cup, Edward stares at his own reflection. "John estimates you may have around seven to ten days remaining with Nakamura's power before you internal biochemestry resets itself back to its original configuration. We're not going to get another chance to capture Hiro unawares, which means we're going to need to use what resources we have against him when he returns — and I promise you he will."

Reaching into his jacket, Edward removes a piece of folded paper, looking much like a hastily written shopping list. "First and foremost, you're going to need to make a public announcement connecting Hiro Nakamura to the nuclear detonation of 2006, citing him as an accomplice to Sylar." Blue eyes track up from the list to Nathan, "Next, you're going to need to put the FRONTLINE proposal on a fast track. Yes — I know that isn't a deviation from the events as we saw them, but we're going to need that security force to clean up the mess we make." His eyes narrow, "I have no intention of leaving lunatics like Eric Doyle and Niles Wight running loose once we're done with this."

As Edward begins to speak, Nathan doesn't opt to sit with him - but he doesn't interrupt either. The crisp jacket of his suit is drawn back enough for his hands to settle in the pockets of his slacks, the tie that hangs from his neck a royal, subdued form of scarlet with golden threads creating its pattern, with a tie clip interrupting it. He paces with all the slow nervousness of a caged tiger, steps weight and tension climbed high. As if someone would come in at any moment and jump to conclusions and out him for what he is.

For what he has always been. An imposter, in many ways. He doesn't react to the orders save for silence, listening, and his pacing comes to a halt, turning back towards Edward. "Neither do I," he says, gravely, head tilting a little. "Hiro being framed, getting the government to clean up our own messes - this sounds a lot like covering our own ass, Edward." He doesn't sound critical, exactly - covering tracks is almost as important as the changes they'd see in the world. Almost. No, Nathan sounds impatient.

"Fine," is spoken, in the next moment. Done. "But tell me there's— are you sure there's no way we can stop Nakamura getting his powers back? He could ruin everything. He will, frame job or not."

"I can't be sure of anything with Nakamura, but I'm relatively certain that he won't be an immediate threat. If we can make the government more of an issue to him than we are, we might just be able to make some progress before he decides to try anything. If he comes after us directly, John will be able to intervene, at least potentially. There's still one more piece of this puzzle that I haven't quite been able to sort out, but once I find her I don't think we'll have to worry about the Nakamura problem any longer."

Reclining into the chair, Edward's eyes focus up on Nathan. "Once we're settled with Pinehearst, and once Eric and the others have been put back where they belong, we're going to find ourselves in a very difficult position — you and I. I do have to wonder, though, exactly how long you plan on keeping your counterpart locked up for? He's a loose end, Nathan."

Edward's lingering stare says what words can't. Loose ends need to be cut off.

He won't share his fears about losing his power. Evolved ability had never been important to him before, but then again, there is only so much flying can get you ahead in the long term. But Nakamura's ability— it changes him. To speak of losing it is like casually talking about hacking off a leg. He keeps this off his face, however, and moves, finally, to sit down opposite Edward.

"Loose end," Nathan repeats, with a small strain of bitter laughter. "He's— he's fine— safe— where he is, for the time being. I could learn off him more objectively than just a faded memory of ten years ago." The excuses sound flimsy even to him, so he stops trying, fixing Edward with a cautious look. "Call me superstitious but how do you know— that killing myself is a good idea? What if it's damaging— "

"It's not. I intend to prove it myself rather shortly now that April has recovered my counterpart here from Primatech's facility." Blue eyes fix on Nathan, "Superstition has no place in the realm of science, Nathan. I spent nearly my entire life at MIT researching this exact event, the principals of time travel based on a prediction that I would need to know and understand them in times to come. The M-Theory that unifies the six superstring theories posits that multiple universes exist, multiple potential futures that branch out into infinite possibilities, making something like the grandfather paradox you're so worried about an impossibility."

There's a tilt of Edward's head to the side, one thin brow raised, "This isn't a matter of 'whatever happened, happened', we're creating a whole new world for ourselves right now, Nathan." Edward's eyes narrow, "Don't let hesitation and uncertainty ruin this for you. Think about it," he leans in to reach for his tea again. "If roles were reversed, and you were the one tied up…" he takes a slow, quiet sip of the tea, then stares back at Nathan again. "What would you do if you got out?

He listens with all the attention of someone who's learned patience the hard way, jaw set and brow becoming a tense line, and finally when that last question is put to him, Nathan lifts a hand in a vague gesture, indicating their fine surroundings. "What haven't I already done?" That hand is lifted to rub his brow as if to smooth away the tension and the oncoming headache it will bring.

"Fine." Yet another one-worded clipped confirmation, agreeing to something awful. It used to be easier, to be honest. Prison takes away responsibility too. "But I want to do it myself. I'm not feeding to the pack of wolves you've brought here." Superstition and sentimentality have no place in the realm of science, but Nathan was never much of a scientist.

But it has no place in the realm of politics, either. Still, he's alright at faking it. "He's still useful to me," Nathan finds himself insisting.

Edward's eyes linger on Nathan for a time, watching him with a scrutiny and uncertainty that seems too obviously painted on. Frowning mildly, he looks away and clears his throat, "I'll leave his, ah— care— in your hands." Blue eyes track back up to Nathan from the floor, "but I assure you, whatever uses he has in the here and now, will wear thin and then he'll do exactly what you'd do." The doctor's eyes narrow as he pushes himself up from his chair, straightening his tie with both hands after straightening. "He'll kill you."

Having made his point, Edward adjusts the lapels of his suit jacket and looks towards the painting of Abraham Lincoln hanging on the wall of the room, gaze unfocusing in a distant way as he does. "I guess it can wait, for a little longer…" his voice is quieter now, losing some of its gravitas. "But Nathan," Edward's head turns, focus delivered clearly now to the President, "Just make certain that you follow my instructions clearly and quickly, or everything you've done here?" He motions around the sitting room, "And everything you're trying to make up for?" His hand lowers, sliding into the pocket of his jacket. "You'll lose it."

There's no point in arguing. Of course this Nathan would kill him. Some phantom of the future isn't even a murder, not when it stands in the way like this. Nathan watches as Edward moves, speaks, lays emphasis on the important things. He places his hand on the arm of the chair he was in and levers himself up to stand, but not approach. The heavy piece of antique furniture remains as a barricade between the two, Nathan's hand resting on it casually. His stolen wedding ring is a shining spot in the unobtrusive lighting, a symbol of the benefits he's reaping.

"I know. I know what I have to lose," he mutters, then just nods once with the hesitation of a smile. "Rush the FRONTLINE proposal. Denounce Nakamura. Kill the guy who used to be me." Like a to-do list, Nathan lists this off casually, if only to show he understands. His face is a diplomatic mask, but beneath Edward's sharp study, he seems honest. "Save ourselves."

Listeninig to Nathan, the frown that was there is slowly replaced by something less telling, a Mona Lisa smile that betrays little emotion and thought, just the faintest creep of the corner of Edward's lips into that mild expression. Everything Nathan says seems to fit the puzzle, pieces of the grand equation that needs to be solved, the equation of how to change the future and live out the remainder of their lives in this past.

But Nathan seems to be getting it. He seems to be drinking the Kool-Aid, and that means Edward's job here is done. Everything has been set into motion, and now everything lies in the hands of probability and chance — a toss of the dice he is banking everything on.

"Save ourselves," Edward finally says in agreement. But then he adds, "Save the world."

Some would say the only thing it needs saving from are these two men right now, but the lines at Nathan's eyes deepen in something that hints at a smile. It's not easy to recognise when you've made your choice somewhere before, down the line, and all you can do is follow in its wake - but inevitable, especially as Edward's words echo a historical sentiment that only vaguely nudges at Nathan's memory.

He's had practice at this. And who knows— maybe one day he'll be a real President, rather than the puppet made of wood that jerks on strings less literal than Eric Doyle's. From Linderman, Angela, to Edward. He knows it and yet— Nathan nods his head, and turns his shoulder in subtle dismissal. He twists his ring around his finger, and can rest assured that feelings of dirtiness don't come away in a shower. It's bone deep, and familiar, like being a lawyer. Being a politician.

It's not bad.

"I told April I'd keep in touch. Otherwise you know where to find me."

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