Without the Fight


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Scene Title Without the Fight
Synopsis Bottled up emotions and resentment finally explode under pressure.
Date November 8, 2011

Somewhere outside Las Vegas, Nevada

He didn't tell her where he was going.

Twelve miles outside of Las Vegas, just past the turn off on the highway he and Gracie had taken into the desert, is a battered old 2003 Jeep Cherokee, formerly in the possession of the now-deceased Gracie Lee. Peter hasn't told Niki anything about what happened below the casino, about Amid Halebi, about why he had a "bad feeling" and she had to start working across the city for less money. He's been keeping a lot of secrets lately.

A quarter mile from his Jeep, across a stretch of Nevada desert under the hot early morning sun and a clear sky, is a new model Cadillac. Two men's shadows are cast long by the sun across the desert, one with a bag, the other with a gun.

"I ain't giving you shit." Jason Mines casually points a handgun at Peter, not too much of a threat behind it. But enough. "I don't know who the fuck you are, but Mr. d'Sarthe only deals with Gracie."

"I just need to know who was moving that truck. If I can get in touch with them somehow." Peter eyes the gun, then eyes Jason. "This doesn't have to end stupid."

"I get the feeling it already has, friend. Because you trick me out here," Jason nods to the car, and a man in a dark suit and sunglasses with a shaved head steps out. "Your money isn't good. For answers, for you, for walking away." Peter's attention turns to the larger man.

"That your dad?" Peter taunts, and Jason's expression slides into a frown. "One more time: this doesn't have to end stupid."

It's going to end stupid no matter how many times Peter warns them. Gideon d'Sarthe's men don't have a lot going on in the good sense department.

Neither does Peter right now, honestly. Because if he did, he would have known better than to keep his girlfriend in the dark. His phone begins to ring, her name (Jessica) popping up on the screen like a warning.

The driver's side mirror of the Cadillac explodes, scattering chrome and plastic and reflective glass like sharp edged confetti, almost before they hear the sound of the shot. Out here, it carries, nothing to bounce off of and back to them. Nothing to shield them, apart from that car. And the large caliber round informs them that that might not be as effective as they might want.

Another quarter mile away from Peter's Jeep is another Cadillac. 1959, cherry red. Far less inconspicuous than his vehicle, but at this distance, it doesn't really matter. Niki Sanders lays sprawled on her stomach on the roof of the car, knees bent and feet in the air. In front of her is a stabilizing tripod, and on that stand is her Winchester. The bolt action is a satisfying sound to her ears. The cartridge is ejected and the new one loaded and ready to go. Her phone is pressed between her ear and her shoulder, impatience etched into her features that goes unappreciated from so far away.

Peter doesn't check his phone. He knows what's happening the second the first shot is fired. When it doesn't hit him he realizes that Niki wants to resolve this face to face, and that's probably the worst prospect possible.

Never the less, Peter lashes out while Mines and his goon are distracted. Mines' gun is torn from his hand, arcs through the air and strikes the hired help in the face sending him staggering to the ground. Peter turns, heels grinding in the dirt as he calls on Hiro's power to —


Peter turns, watching Mines scrambling for the rear of the Caddy, crouched low. Then just barely catches the huge bald guy getting up. Too much eye contact behind those sunglasses, Peter can feel the tingle behind his eyes now. He knows that man's —

Shooting at him. Throwing himself to the ground, Peter narrowly avoids being struck as the bald ability negator fires a handful of rounds out of the gun that had hit him in the face. Dirt pops up around Peter, and Niki can see him scrambling in her scope.

She didn't miss.

"Should've answered your damn phone," Niki sighs, a little bit of a what can you do? lilt to her voice. The phone continues to ring in her ear. The bald man begins firing, and Peter is scrambling. Blonde brows furrow as she figures out exactly what that means. Nothing good.

"All right then. No more warning shots."

Hopefully Peter doesn't need the big guy alive, because while he's trying to be still enough to take his own shot, Niki is lining up hers. The dirt sprays up around Peter, and the shooter begins to duck for cover, but men are so predictable.

Niki sucks in a breath, holds it, and pulls the trigger.

Her lips curl upward with her satisfaction as she watches the man's head burst in a spectacular bouquet of meaty red pieces and white shards of bone through her scope. You see, Peter? Sometimes you just have to do things the old fashioned way.

When the phone goes to voicemail, Niki just tilts her chin up enough to allow the space for her thumb to come up and press the red button to terminate the call before the tone. Then, she double taps the green and calls back.

The second the negator goes down in a spray of gore, Niki feels a rush of air beside her. "Gonna let that one go to voicemail too," Peter explains in a rattled tone of voice, hopping into the car. He presumes she doesn't want to leave this here. He also presumes she wants to talk on the way.

"Let's get the hell out of here before we make this any worse for ourselves." Peter growls, raking one hand through her hair. In her scope, Niki can see the other blonde fellow ducked behind his vehicle, just barely out of a clear shot without going through the full length of the car.

That's an experienced cockroach.

"Let's be clear on one thing," Niki says tersely, entirely unsurprised when he's just there - used to it by now - beginning to dismantle her equipment, "We did not make this bad. You made this bad, and I just made it a whole lot better."

It's the cockroach's lucky day. He's not worth the ammunition. She slides off the roof of the car, staggering a step when she lands on the dirt. The trunk was already open, and she only takes the time to make sure the gun isn't going to go off before throwing it in with the rest of her gear. She can pack it up properly later. When they're wherever the hell they need to go from here.

The trunk is slammed with a force that underlines her frustration with him. The driver's side door is likewise yanked open with a little more force than it needs to be and she drops into the seat with a whud! before slamming the door behind her.

"Buckle up."

Engine turns over, whitewall tires spin, kicking up dirt and gravel from the roadside before finding enough purchase to pull back onto the road. The car lurches forward, slams into reverse as Niki cranks the wheel with one hand, shifting gears with the other, then speeds forward again back in the direction they came, tires squealing.

"You're welcome."

Peter stares off into the middle distance, one elbow propped up on the side of his door, head in his hand. He doesn't have a thank you or a witty retort for that. He's quiet, that all too familiar guilty quiet he gets when he knows he's wrong.

Dark eyes look at Niki side-long, then to the rear-view mirror, then back to the middle distance.

He isn't volunteering.

She is.

Volunteering her fist into his jaw without taking her eyes off the road, that is.

"Fuck you, Peter." Her foot jams down the accelerator, watching the needle climb higher. She knows she should slow down, because they don't want to get pulled over with a fucking sniper rifle in the trunk. The count of two, and she's easing her right foot back, then working the clutch to downshift.

"We're supposed to be partners." There's the ghost of a hitching breath on the last plosive note, giving away just how concerned she was about him just then. There's a shaky glance to the rear view mirror at her reflection, then immediately back on the road.

Slouched against the passenger's side door, Peter cradles his jaw in the way someone without regeneration does after being struck in the face. His lips pull back, brows furrow, and he swallows a coppery taste of blood back. Pink teeth bared to Niki, Peter fires back with, "This isn't about you. Or us."

He works his jaw from side to side, fingers touching his lip. No split there, that was cheek meets teeth blood he swallowed. "I had it under control," finally comes up. "You weren't— I don't need you doing exactly this." Peter waves behind them, in the figurative direction of a corpse in the desert.

"This is— this is about Nakamura." Niki just got rid of him less than two hours ago. And already Peter can't stop picking at the emotional scabs Hiro's presence reminded him of.

"Of course it isn't," Niki spits back with slightly less venom than originally intended. The adrenaline is wearing off and she's just tired. Of this uncertainty of what is he doing? and what does he think she needs to be protected from? because she can protect herself, thank you.

Isn't that part of why they're together? Because she's not fragile like some of the women in his past?

Niki takes a deep breath, her cheeks puffing out with the force of the exhale. No quietly seething anymore. Now she's trying to calm down and look at this with a level head.

"He had you negated, Peter." So what control did he think he had there? "You're not a fast enough draw to have gotten out of that situation without a slug in you. Are you even armed?" Sometimes they're both so confident in their respective powers that they think they're unstoppable. That thinking - lack of it - always leads them to trouble. But the question is rhetorical. She doesn't give a fuck.

When he says the name, Nakamura, her eyes close heavily, fingers gripping the steering wheel tightly. Her eyes open again, because they have to, but her knuckles go white, and it's starting to feel a little too warm in the car's interior.

"We talked about this," is a plea for some of that good sense to return to him. "We're done, Peter. That's why we moved out here. Don't you remember the last time we saw him? We agreed, no more deals with him."

The last time Niki Sanders saw Hiro Nakamura before today was the last time she saw her son's bright smile.

"Dead is dead," she growls, more to the ache in her chest than to him. "Let the past rot in its grave."

"I'm not— " Peter takes a hand through his hair again and slams a palm on the dashboard angrily. "I'm not helping him, I just— I might know someone who can. That— " Peter scrubs a hand at his mouth, then breathes in deeply.

"That guy he was with — at the club?" Peter looks out to the desert blowing past as they speed down the freeway. "It was bugging me. I knew I recognized him from somewhere." Peter's brown eyes flick to Niki. "That was Ando. He was there when— " he doesn't finish that sentence. She knows what he's getting at.

"Ando died, Niki. I saw Sylar kill him with my own two eyes." Peter's brows furrow again, swallowing noisily as he looks away from her. "Something's going on. Hiro hasn't come looking for me personally in four years."

Finally, Peter says what he's been thinking. "Niki, if Hiro went back in time and saved Ando or— or something…" He Let's that possibility hang.

She knows this part too.

"Finding someone to help him is literally the definition of helping him!" Niki snaps, exasperated. He can pound on her car all he wants. She's not easing up on him. He has no appreciation for what he's put her through recently.

Screeching tires sounds like the audible manifestation of Niki's anger as she jerks the wheel to the side and jams her foot down on the brake. She slams the shifter into park and turns in her seat finally to properly look at him. "I don't care. You have seen what messing with time does.

Left arm reaches across her body to undo her seatbelt, then his. Then she leans in front of him so she can grab the handle of his door, pull it and shove it open. "Get out."

Before he can think she's suggesting stranding him on the side of the road, she's up and out of the car herself, crossing in front of the hood so she can stand on the side of the road and wait for him to join her. Her jaw is trembling and she notices the sheen coming off of her like a heat mirage. She staggers back a few steps to put distance between herself and him, to protect him.

It's been a while since she's started to lose control of her stolen ability. Eyes close tightly against the onslaught of emotion. It's all she can do just to breathe now, and focus.

"He told me he can't be saved."

For the barest of moments, Peter genuinely thought she was going to make the symbolic gesture of stranding him, and he wouldn't have blamed her. Watching her now, though, Peter understands all too well what it's like to let emotions overwhelm, to lose control.

"People change," Peter says in a less confrontational tone of voice. "Maybe… maybe Hiro saw something. Maybe he realized something. Maybe — " Peter takes a few paces away, hands wildly gesturing as he talks. "Maybe it doesn't matter what he thinks, but what we think?"

Peter takes in a slow, uneven breath and scrubs one hand down his face. He exhales into his palm, looks down to the hot desert ground where asphalt meets dirt. "We should have heard him out," Peter laments in the face of everything he'd been trying to run from.

"What would you be saying to me if you were in my shoes, Peter?" Niki stares down at the ground now, lets her eyes wander the expanse between her feet and his, gaze tracking back and forth as he paces. Counting physical inches between them as miles of the emotional divide.

"If Hiro had come to me personally, what would you be telling me right now?"

Then, she looks up at him, all that hurt that she's been holding on to, while he's been off doing God knows what and leaving her out of the picture, writes itself into the subtle lines of her face pale face. Usually so guarded, now she's laid bare. An open book. Maybe if he'd read it once in a while - if she'd let him - they wouldn't be fighting like this.

The radiation bleeding from her skin slowly begins to die down again. Once she knows she's safe, Niki rallies her bravery and steps toward him, boots crunching over the cracked dirt beneath their feet.

Peter's tense, jaw squared, uncertain of what form Niki's passion will take next. Admittedly, that's also what he appreciates about her. The fire.

"I'd tell you to tell him to piss off," Peter admits, deflating some. "I don't know, Niki. I don't… I don't know what we're doing anymore." Eyes averted to the horizon, Peter looks lost.

"We ran away from New York, and it came to us. It's not going to stop." His dark eyes settle on her far lighter ones. "You left your sisters, I left— everyone. For what?" Peter's lips downturn into a frown, hand smoothing his hair back.

"We could do this anywhere." This life of theirs. "But the world's only so big. Eventually, out past is going to find us. The Company, the Institute, whatever comes after."

Peter hates to be saying any of this. "I was wrong." Especially that.


With the anger drained away — like the part of her deep down that Jessica was made from — she's gentle. Because sometimes he wants her fire, but sometimes he needs cool water. Her hands come up, she rests her palms against the edge of his jaw, fingers curling around the back of his neck to run nails over the nape.

Niki closes her eyes and leans in, resting her forehead against his, the tip of her nose nudging at his own. Her breath is warm, smells faintly like whiskey. For a long, long moment, it's just enough to hold him and let him know without words that she's here. She's not going anywhere. And she understands.

"We don't know who we are without the fight."

It feels like the most honest thing she's ever said in her life. "But nothing we've done has changed anything. I'm so tired, Peter." She sighs against him, lips almost touching. "I don't know if I can take one more failed attempt at saving the world."

Peter nods once, his nose against hers, then his brow. He rests hands on her waist, and she can feel the crease of his scar on her forehead. His reminder from Hiro. The reminder he's forgotten until now.

Lifting a hand up, Peter brushes Niki's hair from her face, traces the back of fingernails over her cheek, and affords her a tired smile that may be the last one he has to offer this world.

"Then this time," Peter closes his eyes and breathes in a deep breath. He has to be sure before he says this. But deep down inside he's always known this is how it would end.

"This time we don't fail."

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