So apparently, I'm actually supposed to post these after I write them. Go figure. Seriously though, sorry about the wait.

Chapter 1

The Ruins of New York City, Present

The Bright Lights Tavern, in regulation with President Petrelli's latest legal blunder, only served ale on tap. And light ale at that. The liquid looked more like peach tea and tasted more like carbonated turpentine. Of course, Sylar was old enough to remember the good stuff, unlike the legions of college students constantly fluttered around the joint, as if a red cup in one hand and a pool cue in the other was enough to make them feel like actual adults. But that was back before the Kirby Plaza bombing, and the election Sylar still swore was rigged.

That was back before a lot of things, a lot of people.

He pushed through the crowds fluttering to the heart-staggeringly loud beat of what could be considered music, around to his booth at the back of the bar with the tumbler of ale precariously dangling between his fingers. The ice cubes had long since melted in the sticky summer heat of New York City. It didn't matter much; he'd never be able to get drunk off of it anyways. He considered the useless glass, the throng of nowhere kids pressed up against bar, the tragically off-key band that looked like it could actually benefit from some real alcohol. He'd never have been caught dead at a place like this in any other circumstances. His source was right; it was the perfect place to meet.

His source was also late. He hadn't risked going off the Company grid only to be stood up. If his bosses knew he was putting them all at risk...man, he'd end back up in Solitary until the end of time. His first year long stint there had been plenty.

Sylar gripped the glass just slight of hard enough to keep it from shattering in his hand, never taking his eyes off the front entranced to the bar. If his source wasn't coming through there, then one of his boss's men certainly were. Bennet had gone into overdrive scrounging around for any reason he could find to throw him back into that retched cell ever since Peter called it quits - like it was his fault his partner was such a first-class cream puff, or something.

Sylar removed his clenched grasp from the cup, and circled the upper rim of it instead. He used to be able pick up the sound the glass would have made even over the crowd. "Fucking Pinehurst," he swears aloud. Fuck the Company too. The ever controlling Bennet was sure to pick up soon that he wasn't where he was supposed to be.

Still. He was beyond desperate. If his source's information was as correct as promised, well then it was worth a thousand years in solitude. He doesn't need to remind himself that she would have done the same for him. Claire had been the voice of the angel on his shoulder ever since she was taken.

Before he could decide either way, the glass was plucked out of his hand.

"You're late." he said without turning around. A surprisingly familiar blond slid into the opposite side of the booth. He slumped low in the seat, careful not to belie the apprehension that kept his muscles tense and ready to strike out. He always knew his source was an insider, but her?

With all the grace breed in upper-crust Northern private schools, she sat down and took a sip of his ale. He raised an eyebrow when she didn't wince at the metallic taste. Her legs crosses at the ankles and one hand went to smooth the imaginary wrinkles from her obviously designer suit. How she had managed to procure one in these times was a mystery to him.

This was his source? Really? This was the woman who had information about the Pinehurst Experiments? She hardly looked like the kind of person who would be involved in such dirty business as the one of rounding up specials and using them as genetic pincushions. Guess it really did take all kinds.

Her eyes studied the glass she was turning in her hand instead of him. If he wasn't studying her back just as intensely, he probably would have missed how her brow furrowed and her fingers clenched around the tumbler. A frosty layer of condensation followed. He raised an eyebrow at the illegal display. As Petrelli's top aid, she should know better. Naughty, naughty girl. She handed the glass back to him after taking another sip from it.

He was glad for the shadows keeping them from view. He still wasn't completely sold on having this discussion in public. Pinehurst Army Spies were everywhere these days. Her gaze swung to the rest of the patrons at the bar. Was she waiting for someone else to join her? Or was she just making sure that she wasn't followed? His feet press into the ground. See now, if only he still had telepathy.

Or any of his powers really.

"I have a proposition for you," she said finally.

"I gathered as much from our previous communications." He glared at her, but she didn't flinch as expected. If he had any sense at all (and Peter would always say he didn't), Sylar would get up and left right then and there. Hell, he shouldn't have come in the first place. This had set-up written all over it, he thought.

He didn't move - not a inch. The hint of information she had dangled in front of him on the phone earlier was making him more reckless than usually (and that's saying something, his mental Peter voice chimed in again).

"Did you know our founding father first met at this bar to discuss the possibility of revolution?" Her fingernails drummed on the wooden table in time to the music playing over the ancient jukebox. He can barely hear her over the noise. It was probably the effect she was going for.

"Interesting." he drew out the word, heavy in sarcasm. That statement wasn't even close to the truth; or anyway relevant considering the area they were in now was still mostly condemned until rather recently. Anyone listening would have known this. Just great. Don't tell me she didn't know if they were being followed either.

Why wouldn't she get on with it? At this point, he could less about technical protocol. Who cares who hears. He had the urge to flatten her hand against the table to stop her fidgeting. He would have too, if his powers hadn't been stolen from him during one of the Army's hunting parties. The woman in front of him still had hers. His irritation increased. He felt the urge to kill her press up against his eyes. It made his fingertips tingle, as if they were phantom limbs. Even without his powers, even after years of working for the Company, even after Claire…the urge was still as strong as it ever had been.

"They had to be careful though. They needed to separate the process into multiple parts."

"How many?" He interrupted. He didn't have time for her riddles. She held up four fingers up against the table partially concealed by her other hand. Well that narrowed it down. The country might have been in shambles, but even post-war, most of the cities were still standing. No wonder she was in politics, she was brilliant at talking without actually giving him any information.

"Where?" he ground out.

"Not yet."

"I don't have the time for this." He growled out. There was some movement by the door that drew his eye. He didn't have time for that either. The two men that had just entered looked too new and too clean for them to be from the rumble-wreck of New York City. They might mimicking the behaviors of those around them. But not well enough, he thought with a huff and a cock of his head.

Of course, no ever blended in as well as he did. Maybe he should just hope they don't see him.

"You need to do something for me first," she said. Oh course she needed something else from him. God forbid getting this information out of her would be straight forward.

He stood up, and nodded his head, indicating she should follow him. She hesitated. He grabbed her upper arm, completely disregarding her annoyed grunt, and dragged her to the back exit of the bar. He had to fumble with the rusty lock with only one hand. For the thousandth time that day, he cursed Petrelli's power hunting crusade. If he had his powers right now… His hand tightened around the top of her arm.

He really needed to stop living in the past.

He dragged her farther down the back alley, far enough away from the lit entrance and hidden behind heaping trash dumpsters. He spun her around and pinned her against the crumbling brick wall with his own body. He was close enough now to smell her disgustingly little girl perfume. That shit really turned Petrelli on, huh?

She smiled all coy and shit. Then she rolled her hips into his, as if that would have changed her fate any. Sylar's hand squeezed against her neck. Man he'd love to see her trying to explain those bruises away. She gasped out, and he relished in the fear that was rolling off her. Why bother taming the monster inside him now?

"You've been followed." It's not a question and she doesn't answer it. Wouldn't even if she had enough air to form the words. Her perfectly manicured nails come up to scratch at the hand holding her. She started to go cold under his hand, but only after he heard the choking sound of speech did he let her go.

"I didn't know." He doesn't need his powers to know it was a lie. Filthy whore.

"Tell me where they are," he growled out. She had never seen eyes as dark, as intense, as his. She'd always been certain that the tales the told about him in whispers over lunch recess were simply exaggerations told by bored suits looking to garner some sympathy for their cause. But now, squirming helplessly beneath his hand, those stories don't feel like anything less than the truth.

"Here." She took a deep drag of air. "DC."

"Where else?" He demanded. That was only two of the four; he was going to get nothing less than everything she knew. Frustrated, he banged her head against the wall. Once, twice, he banged and he watched the life begin to drain right out of her eyes. Served the bitch right.

Her mouth opened, and he could practically taste her next words.

Except she didn't say anything, just gave him another one of those coy smiles. Yeah right, like she'd ever been innocent enough to pull off coy. Sylar slammed her back against the wall and cut off her air supply again.

But before he could finish her off, the alleyway door cracked open with one of those creaks that old doors make when you open them too slowly. Footsteps, he counted at least a half-dozen sets, snuck into position. Her face twisted into a wicked scowl at the sound.

Sylar glanced over at them. The two he spotted in the bar earlier led with handguns drawn. Behind them, he counted eight more in full out black combat gear. Yeah those were definitely Pinehurst's men. Their semi-automatic weapons were held at the ready and he was surprised their red lasers weren't already bouncing around, looking for him.

Ok, it was damage control time. Not even the best trained soldiers - which they weren't, he could tell - couldn't best him at a game of hunter and pray. This was his town. These were his shadows.

Sylar gripped her even tighter. Her stupidity brought this on. He was going to go in for the kill, so angry that all he could see was her blood on his hands. One second her pulse was beating wildly underneath his arm and the next, she was a puddle at his feet. What the fuck?

He huffed, completely irritated, and no longer completely careful. He slashed thought the puddle with his boot. The water droplets splashed everywhere before rejoining into the main puddle and slithering away to the nearest water grate.

When Sylar looked back up again, eight red dots bounced off the wall above his head.

He barely escaped into the shadows before the rain of bullets started.


The Bennet Household, Odessa, TX, Four Years Ago

For the first time Noah Bennet could remember, he was dreading coming home from work. Sandra was inside, most likely cooking dinner, and even on meatloaf night he appreciated her insistence on having dinner together as a family. Mr. Muggles would always meet him at the door, yipping at his shoes. Lyle would mutter 'hello' without looking up from that blasted video game, and Claire, fluttering by in a cloud of teenage girl, would kiss him on the cheek and ask him if he was still coming to Friday's game. It was the kind of normal life he craved after long days at work; it was the kind of life he'd never before pictured avoiding. He glared a warning at the reason sitting next to him in the passenger's seat.

"My family is in that house. I don't care what the Company says about your rehabilitation, if any harm comes to my children or my wife," he paused and let the warning sink in. For once, the arrogant smirk was gone from his brand new partner's face. Good. "I will make you wish that we had buried you alive when we found you at Kirby Plaza."

Gabriel nodded, taking in the picture perfect piece of the American dream sitting in front of him. He knew Bennet well enough to know that this was anything but an idle threat. Not that the old him would have cared.

"They don't know what you've done. Or that you were Sylar." Bennet warned, placing an extra hard edge on the name no one wanted him to go by anymore. Bennet got out of the car and slammed the door behind him. Gabriel got out as well in a way that was almost dawdling. He didn't belong in such a place like this; he had to remind himself that it was his choice to be here. It didn't do anything to calm the nerves that hadn't plagued him this badly since he discovered the joys of slicing open heads.

He looked up to see Bennet glaring at him…again. "Make sure they don't find out."

"Even Claire?" Gabriel was surprised, but pleasantly so. Guess that was one less obstacle he could look forward to. His rehab had been going exceedingly well, at least according to the Company doctors, quicker than they could have hoped for. He wasn't allowed to live by himself yet, but even the Bennet's guest room was better than that damned cell they had been keeping him in for the past year.

"Especially Claire."

"You are just planning on lying to them then." Bennet paused before the front door to glare at his partner. That damned smirk was back on his face and Bennet couldn't stand the sarcasm in his voice. "You're going to harbor a man that tried to kill your daughter, in her own home none the less, and not tell her. "

"Yes. That is exactly the plan. Follow it or go back to your cell." Bennet's voice took on that low quality that would have made his former self flinch. Gabriel chuckled when Bennet didn't back down. Of course, the man would lie to his daughter. Bennet lied to everyone.

"If you insist." he acquiesced after a minute. He stared at the door instead of his partner. He wouldn't say anything...but if she asked, well he wasn't going to tell her anything but the truth. He hated being lied to; he knew girl inside felt the same way.

Bennet shot him one more warning look. Then, he was all smiles as he opened the door and lead him inside. "Sandra, honey. We're home. Hope you remembered to set an extra place for dinner."


The Ruins of New York City, Present

Run, Sylar kept telling himself. It threaded though his head like a fucking children's book cliche until every breath and every heartbeat was synchronized with the thought. Run.

He'd been slugging through it for eighteen blocks. His feet slapping down on the payment made wounds that hadn't completely healed sting with every step. He was breathing harder than he wanted to admit to himself. Damned cracked ribs. Damned Pinehurst was more like it. This was all their fault.

He wasn't sure how close the soldiers were behind him. Always look forward, never back - the teeny part of him that was channeling his first week of combat training, instead of Dick and Jane, guided him off the small side street and down a darkly shadowed alley.

Just one more block. Just one more.

Run.

Run.

(See Sylar) Run.

He splashed though puddles, pushing himself harder with each step. The water (why was there water here; it hadn't rained recently) made the path too slick, and almost impossible for him to stay silent. He slid the last few feet to a chain link fence separating the alley in half, and found himself ankle deep in god knows with. With this city, hell it could be anything. The wetness seeped into his boots and crawled up his pant legs. He couldn't climb that fence fast enough.

The wire (of course it had to be barbed) bit into his hands and he hoisted himself up and over. A quick look down, and then he jumped. He landed low on his feet, in another puddle (one that was moving; draining maybe?), and had to put a hand down to the ground to steady himself. He pulled his hand back quickly, shuttered. Yeah, that wasn't completely water after all.

The water, or whatever it was, stung his cut hands and he quickly wiped them against his now ruined pants. These clothes were going to have to be burned as soon as he could steal a new pair. Again. If his heart wasn't trying to slow down to the doctor recommended rate, or if he was a teenage girl, he might have sighed. But instead, Sylar stepped against the wall into the shadows, listened. Behind him, the synchronized sound of footsteps paused, then faded. Right, like they were really going to give up that easy.

Think Sylar, think. There had to be a way out.

Water. Moving. Draining. An escape? Maybe.

He's breathing too hard to catch his breath. Only four months ago, would he actually have been able to do something about this pain. The scratches on his hands from scaling that wire fence would have healed before he even knew they were there, and the bullet that had grazed his left bicep earlier would have bounced off him and back at those fools. And all those bruises and broken bones he's gotten since then...

Fuck, stop it. This is no time to rest. No time to dwell in the past. Not until you're in the clear.

Always forward, never back. Run.

He pushed himself up and jogged to the end of the alleyway. He peered around the corner. The street was empty, of course. It was too late for anyone without a death wish to be outside. He took a step forward, prepared to make a break for it, but then thought better of it. He paused, took a closer look. This street looked just like the last one. And the one before that one too. Who knows what part of the city he was actually in.

There was those footsteps again. Clunk, clunk, clunk. All in harmony. He saw the shadows of people crossing the street in the one half-broken, blinking red stoplight. He stepped back into the shadows as they turned down his street.

He could go back or maybe disappear (not literally of course, not anymore). But where? Any moment now, they were going to have him all boxed in. He took another step back. The puddle splashed.

The water. Moving. Draining. There it was.

Escape.

He turned, found the grate half buried under under one of those giant wheeled trash receptacles. The water only draining down one side of the titled drain where it broke away and wedged underneath the pavement, like a cross section of a volcano diagram. He got down on one knee, almost too sore to bend over, and pulled at the grate.

It didn't budge. The footsteps got louder. Closer.

He readjusted his grip on the grate, and then yanks at it again. Oh fuck, what he'd give for those powers right now. It comes off with a loud clank, and not cleanly either. Yeah, he's not going to be able to fix that. He clamors down inside the hole, the grate still in hand.

His stupid hopes weren't going to get him very far at all. Especially because he's sure even the Pinehurst soldiers could figure out where he's disappeared to. Who cared about outsmarting a handful of Pinehurst men anyways? They weren't that special.

Get you head on straight, he can hear Peter's voice shouting at him now that his heart rate has slowed low enough for him to hear his own thoughts. Think, you can't get caught like this.

And he does. Think. He can get out of this. And immediately wanted to roll his eyes at the Peter-voice telling him otherwise. Sylar propped the grate up against the manhole's ladder with his knee and popped back up above ground. His arms twist and pull until they are within reach of the dumpster he pushed away. It's heavier from this angle, without any leverage, but he manages, just barely, until it's almost completely overhead.

The ladder squeaked and squawked at him as climbed down it, one awkward step at a time. Yet he could hear voices on top of the noise. He froze.

The voices sounded staticy, as if they weren't actually standing right above him.

"Anything?"

"No, nothing, Sir."

"Check the next alley. He's here somewhere."

The voices cut out and the footsteps fade away. If Sylar was the type, and of course he wasn't, he could breath a sigh of relief. He was safe. Well, sort of. If you didn't count the fact

He took a deep breath and continued his way down the stairs. When he got to the bottom, his adrenaline was just about used up. His body folds against the creaky ladder. God, what a wretched sound that made.

Sylar hated to admit it, but…he needed Peter.