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Title: What We Are or Might Have Been (6/?)
Author: Seraphtrevs (My Fic Masterlist)
Pairing: Mohinder/Sylar
Rating: R
Genre: Tragicomedy
Word Count: (this part) ~5200
Warnings: Contains depictions of characters suffering from mental illness
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit made, etc.
Summary: Sequel to Down To This. Company man Sylar has brought a superpowered (and psychotic) Mohinder to the Primatech facility in Hartsdale for treatment. After some finagling, he manages to get himself put in charge of Mohinder's recovery. With Mohinder by his side, Sylar hopes to live his newly minted dream of being Gabriel Petrelli, a Good Guy with a nice house in the suburbs, a loving partner, and a (relatively) honest job. Changing his identity, however, is proving to be much more difficult than he originally assumed, particularly when the people around him refuse to let him forget about his past.

A/N: Thanks again to the fantastic [ profile] aurilly for the beta!

Introduction and Table of Contents
Prologue and Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five

The drive from Hartsdale to Richmond, Virginia took about seven and a half hours. Sylar and Bennet had flown when they’d gone a few weeks before, but booking a flight would require more thought than Sylar was capable of at the moment. Besides, he needed time, and he needed to be alone, so the drive wasn’t trouble at all. And there was no rush. His prey wasn’t going anywhere.

He was going to pay a visit to one Tom Miller. He could have picked another who was closer, but this one was perfect. First of all, he and Bennet had already investigated him and dismissed him as harmless, so there was no reason the Company would go looking for him again. Secondly, this one’s ability allowed him to disintegrate objects with a snap of his fingers, which would make body disposal – well, a snap. And most importantly, he was a loner; no one would miss him.

Sylar hadn’t meant to go back to this. He didn’t even want to go back to this, but his last conversation with Mohinder had made it abundantly clear that he was fooling himself. That suburban dream he’d tried to make for himself was as flimsy as spun sugar, and the hunger he had would not be satisfied by it. Killing was messy, and it was ugly, but it was real in a way the life he truly wanted could never be. Bennet had been right. This is what he was – a monster, whether he liked it or not.

He wondered what would happen to Mohinder. He would have to go back to the facility, probably; he felt more than a twinge of guilt over that, but perhaps Peter could help him in his rehabilitation, and they could use Claire’s blood for the transfusions. And it wasn’t as if Mohinder would miss him. At that thought, he felt a prickling sensation behind his eyes. He blinked rapidly and it went away.

He only stopped once along the way. His phone rang about three hours into the trip, but he shut it off. There was a part of him that had missed this – the single-mindedness of the hunt. It was almost midnight when he arrived. Sylar remembered the address and was able to find the apartment building without trouble. He parked across the street but didn’t get out of the car right away; instead, he sat there in the dark, thinking.

Tom Miller was a sixty-two year-old retired file clerk. He was balding, but still had a fringe of unfortunately curly gray hair that feathered out from the side of his head. His front teeth protruded like a rabbit’s; in fact, his whole countenance was rabbit-like, from his beady eyes to the way his whole body quivered when he was nervous, which was all the time, as far as Sylar could tell. His parents were dead, and other members of his family were uninterested in his existence. And who would be? He collected porcelain figurines. Porcelain figurines.

In short, he was a loser. He reminded Sylar of Gabriel a lot. He wasn’t just unloved; he was unlovable. Really, Sylar would be doing him a favor by killing him. It would be an easy kill, too. It was not a good neighborhood, so security wasn’t an issue. He’d be able to walk right in. Since it was night, the man would be asleep. If Sylar moved quickly enough, he wouldn’t even have time to scream, and once he had his ability, Sylar would turn his body into dust. It would be like it never happened.

Except for the blood. No matter how quickly he did it, there would still be blood, everywhere.

Sylar lay his head against the steering wheel and breathed. Why did he care if there was blood? He’d never cared about leaving behind evidence before. And once he had this ability, it would be very difficult to trace him. Without leaving behind decapitated corpses like some grim breadcrumb trail, Bennet or whoever else would have no idea where he was striking. He had scores of names and addresses he’d saved on the sly in a flashdrive he kept in his glove department. If he kept it random enough, they would never catch up with him. He would leave only dust and blood in his wake.

He should do this. He knew it would never satisfy him completely, but he’d get something from it, which was more than he was getting now. He would have the thrill of the kill, and the power that it brought. After a while, the mindlessness he felt in his existence before would settle in again. He would be hungry, but that was all he would be. That didn’t seem like a bad thing anymore.

He brought his head off the steering wheel and looked across the street again. A figure emerged from the building; surprisingly, it was Tom, dressed in a drab overcoat. He was calling out something, his voice high-pitched and unintelligible. A few moments later, a white cat appeared from over a fence and ran to him. It jumped onto his shoulders and rubbed its face against Tom’s, seemingly ecstatic to see him. He laughed at the cat’s exuberance and said something fondly to it while scratching its chin. The two of them went inside.

Who would feed that cat once Sylar killed Tom? Would it be picked up by animal control and euthanized? Sylar could let it out before he killed him, maybe. But then would it come back to the apartment building, night after night, wondering where its friend had gone? Would it mourn him? Would it starve without his care?

Sylar did not move for a very long time. Finally, he reached into his pocket and took out his phone. He turned it on and pressed #3 on his speed dial.

Peter answered on the first ring. “Where the fuck are you?”


“What the hell are you doing there?”

“Nothing,” Sylar said. He found he couldn’t say more than that, so he said it again. “Nothing.”

“You drove all the way to Virginia to do nothing?”

“No. But I don’t want to–“ Sylar broke off. He was shaking. “I don’t want to do it. I don’t.”

“Sylar,” Peter said, concern slowly creeping into his voice. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“Please don’t call me that,” he said. “Please.

“All right,” Peter said. His earlier anger seemed gone; his tone was very gentle. “Gabriel, I just need you to tell me what you’re doing right now.”


“Okay, okay,” Peter said. “Nothing. Got it. Are you in your car?”


“Are you driving?”


“All right. Can you tell me exactly where you are? An address, maybe?”


“I’m a little worried about you, Gabriel,” Peter said. “It sounds like you might need help. Do you need help?”

He did, of course. But then he imagined what that help was going to look like – Peter would call his mother, and she’d send Bennet and a whole team of agents to take him down. Just admitting that he was losing it was grounds enough for them to lock him up again, or worse. It had been stupid of him to call Peter.

“Gabriel?” Peter said. “Are you still there?”

“I have to go,” Sylar said. He shut off the phone, and then chucked it out the window for good measure. He started the car and sped off down the street.

His head began to ache. The pain became so bad that his vision started to blur. He squinted at the road, trying to keep himself together, but slowly, the edges of the world turned gray, then black, and then there was nothing. Nothing at all.

* * * *

It was a while before Sylar realized where he was. He was in the Diner, sitting at the booth that was his. He used to spend almost all of his time here, waiting. There was an empty plate in front of him. It was always empty; he was always famished.

As awareness continued to come back to him, he reached out and knocked the plate from the table. The ear-splitting shatter jolted him further out of his stupor. He stood up and looked around. The Diner was in complete disarray, as if an earthquake had struck. There were cracks in the floors and the walls – both thick cracks like lightning bolts and little ones like spiderwebs. The lights worked, but only barely; what dim light they provided flickered in and out every few minutes. When he tried to breath, the heavy smell of dust nearly choked him.

Coughing, he looked around the room. He couldn’t see all of the booths clearly, but most of them seemed empty. “Hello?” he called out. “Is there anyone else here?”

He caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned to follow it. The booth looked empty at first, but then he saw the movement again, under the table. He crouched down and peeked underneath. There was a child underneath there. He was five years old; he would always be five years old. He wore thick-framed glasses and racecar pajamas. He was playing with a toy car.

“Hi,” said Sylar.

The Innocent gave him a shy smile. “Hi.”

“I didn’t know you were still here.”

“I was sleeping,” he said. “We all were. Well, ‘cept for you, I guess.”

A feeling of dread began to creep over Sylar. “And the others? They’re waking up, too?”

Instead of answering, he held up his toy car to Sylar. “Look what I found!”

Sylar took it from him. It was a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV, just like his car. “Where did you get this?” he said.

The Innocent shrugged. “Dunno. Can I have it back?”

Sylar held the toy just out of reach. “You have to tell me who else is awake first.”

“Telling on people is bad!” he said fiercely. “I’ll get in trouble!”

“You won’t. I promise.”

“Liar! You always get in trouble when you tell – always!”

The Innocent seemed dangerously close to a breakdown, so Sylar handed him the toy. “Fine. Here.”

He snatched it from him and darted out from under the booth. Sylar stood up and followed him. The Innocent ran behind the front counter and disappeared behind a door. Sylar was going to go after him, but then he noticed the computer monitor on the counter. This was the Will, the center of them all, the one who knew all of the Gears and set them into motion. There was a starburst crack in one corner of the bulky, ancient screen. Sylar thought that it might be broken, but it flickered on when he tried to walk past. Green text appeared on the black screen:


“I thought you were gone,” Sylar said through gritted teeth.


“Except for me. I didn’t shut down.”


“So what happens when the repairs are complete?”


“You mean, supporting Gabriel,” Sylar said. “You plan to bring him back.”


“And I suppose you expect me to go back to serving
his needs.”


“Not anymore,” Sylar said. “I’m more than that now. I want my own life.”

The cursor blinked for a moment.

Sylar’s hands curled into fists. “Where is he?” He walked past the Will and to the door the Innocent had gone through earlier. He tried to turn the handle; it was locked. “He’s behind here, isn’t he?”


Sylar rattled the doorknob, to no avail. He stood back and started to kick the door. An alarm started to sound. Sylar turned and faced the screen again.

”There is no fucking way that I’m going back to being a cog in a machine,” Sylar said. “This is my life now – not his!” He began to go after the door again, punctuating his words with kicks. "And I don’t have any room in my life for a spineless – selfish – coin-collecting – LOSER like him!” The last kick cracked the door. He smiled with grim satisfaction. He turned to the counter and found several sets of silverware underneath it. He grabbed a steak knife.

The alarm grew louder.

Sylar ignored it and gave the door one last, shattering kick. But just as it collapsed, a metal gate slammed down where the door used to be. Sylar cursed and pounded on it with a fist, only to be knocked back by an electrical shock. He landed on the floor in front of the Will.


Sylar got to his feet. There had to be a way to escape. He turned to the main dining area and saw the front door. He ran for it. Alarms started sounding again, and a metal portcullis started to descend from the ceiling to block off the exit. But Sylar was faster, and he slipped out just before the portcullis crashed to the ground. It was so light outside that he couldn’t make out what was around him. The light grew brighter…and brighter…and brighter…

* * * *

Sylar woke up with a start, sucking in big gulps of air as if he’d almost drowned. It took him several long minutes to catch his breath. After he had calmed down somewhat, he sat up and took survey of his surroundings. He was in a bed in a motel room – one of those extended stay units, but not a nice one by the looks of it. The yellowed wallpaper was peeling around the edges. The patchy carpet was an ugly shade of green; it made the floor look like it was covered in fungus. There was an air freshener placed optimistically on the kitchenette counter, but the room still smelled hopelessly of old cigarettes and sweat.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed. It was then that he noticed the nightstand. On it sat an old but sturdy lamp, a plastic cup filled with water – and a pair of black, thick-framed glasses.

“Oh no,” Sylar said. “No no no no.” He grabbed the lamp and used it to crush the glasses, hitting them over and over until the frames were twisted and the lenses broken. Was he too late? Had Gabriel awoken?

It was one thing to know that the Will was up and functioning. The Will was powerful, but it was a machine. It had no desire other than to keep them from shutting down. And the Innocent was just a child – he didn’t venture out much, preferring the safety of inner life. But if Gabriel returned…he would want his life back.

He noticed that his hands were shaking. He shut his eyes and tried to calm down. Before he did anything else, he needed to figure out where the hell he was. He turned on the TV and hit the “Guide” button; the date on the screen told him that it was a week after he blacked out. He looked around the rest of the suite. The closet was full of musty-smelling clothing in the style that Gabriel favored – dowdy slacks, stuffy shirts and sweater-vests. He swore and tore the clothes from the hangers, scattering them over the floor.

He took a few deep breaths and forced himself to calm down, then continued his investigation. In the back of the closet there was a brown paper bag; Sylar picked it up. It was stuffed with rolls of cash – mostly in $100 bills. He brought it out of the closet and sat down on the bed to count it. There was about $10,000 in total. That was very mysterious. Sylar didn’t have a bank account, due to the fact that he didn’t exactly have a legal identity. He couldn’t use Gabriel’s information because Gabriel was a wanted murderer. Angela paid for the house and gave him credit cards that were connected to her accounts.

He put the money back in the bag and stuffed it under the bed. He noticed a desk by the door; he sat down at it and the top drawer. There were a number of receipts: a few for thrift stores, some for cheap take-out restaurants. There was a brochure in there as well; apparently, he was Seaside Heights, a town at the New Jersey shore. He knew this place; Virginia used to take Gabriel here for vacations.

There was also a set of car keys, but they weren’t for the SUV. He stared at them for a few moments before it hit
him. Someone sold his SUV, he realized with growing fury. That’s where the money had come from. Goddamnit - he loved that car!

He paused again to calm himself; he could not afford to lose control. He considered everything he had discovered. Gabriel probably hadn’t returned yet, he decided. The clothes he’d found were musty-smelling, and Gabriel was a neat freak; there’d be no way he’d wear them without laundering them first. And the sale of the car was something that was beyond Gabriel’s limited skillset. Sylar didn’t have the title to the SUV with him. That meant that whoever he had sold it to had not been overly concerned with the law. It wasn’t that difficult to find a shady used car dealer, but Gabriel was too much of a goody-two-shoes to pull even that off. Sylar was the one who usually dealt with the more unsavory bits of business.

No, this was all the work of the Will, preparing the way for Gabriel’s eventual return. The Will didn’t like to take control of the body; it was terrible at human interaction. However, it had been known to happen. It must have seen Sylar’s near-breakdown in Virginia as an emergency. Maybe it had been. He had felt something back there – something tender, but not gentle. It was a raw and bloody feeling, as if his skin had been peeled away from his bones.

Sylar went to the bathroom and splashed his face with water. He looked at his reflection in the mirror, scrutinizing it as if he might be able to see them in there. Had the Will planned this from the beginning, deliberately leaving Sylar in control to take care of nasty business of survival while it made “repairs?” And what would happen to him when those repairs were completed? Could he stop Gabriel from returning?

Sylar leaned in close to the mirror. “I hope you’re listening,” he said. “Because I have something to tell you. This is my life, and I will be goddamned before I let you take it from me. Any of you.”

He left the bathroom and looked at the clock. It was around 7:30am, and he was starving. He went to the kitchenette and found cereal in the cupboard and a carton of milk in the fridge. After he finished eating, he showered and shaved. Once he was clean, he looked around for something to wear; there was no way he was going to put on any of the clothing that was intended for Gabriel. There was a small dresser in the room; the drawers contained several non-descript tee-shirts and jeans in addition to a few pairs of underwear and socks. He put together an outfit and got dressed.

After he was dressed, he looked around for anything he might have missed. He found a wallet in the drawer of the nightstand; there was about another $100 in it. He put the wallet in his pocket. He picked up the bag of money. Keeping it in the closet was a terrible idea; there was a reason these sorts of things were generally delegated to him. After a few moments’ thought, he emptied out the cereal box and put the rolls of money in it. It wasn’t the best solution, but certainly better than keeping it out in the open.

He grabbed the keys to the mystery car and left, noting the number of his room on the way out. He wanted to find out for sure who had been in control of the body for the past week; he was reasonably sure it had all been the work of the Will, but he needed to know if Gabriel had surfaced at all.

He found the front office of the motel. The only person there was an attractive young woman with long, dark hair sitting behind the front counter. She had her bare feet propped up on the desk as she flipped through a magazine; there were white flowers painted on her toenails. According to her nametag, her name was Angel.

Sylar stood in front of her for a few moments, expecting her to notice him. She didn’t. He finally cleared his throat. “Excuse me,” he said.

She looked up from her magazine reluctantly. “Yeah?”

Sylar tried to come up with a convincing scenario for asking questions about himself, but for once, he couldn’t think of anything. “Um, I’m staying in room 110,” he started, but then stopped. The woman gave him an expectant look. Sylar tried again. “So are you around a lot?”

She looked him up and down. “Not interested,” she said.


“You want to know when I get off, right?” she said, rolling her eyes. “Or maybe you want to know if it hurt when I fell from Heaven. You should try that one; I’ve never heard it before.”

“I’m not hitting on you,” Sylar said. “I just have some questions, and I wanted to know if you’re in the office full-time.”

“Something wrong with your room?”


“You a cop?”


“Then I don’t see what else we got to talk about.” She turned back to her magazine.

He took a deep breath and reminded himself that ripping out her toenails until she told him what he wanted to know was not the kind of thing he did anymore. “Look,” he said. “I just have a few simple questions. It will only take a few minutes, and it’s very important. Please.”

She sighed and shut her magazine. “Fine,” she said. “Give me $50.”

“What for?”

“You got problems, I got problems,” she said. “Seems only fair that you help me out, too.”

Fine.” Sylar took the money out of his wallet and slammed it on the counter.

She took it and tucked it into her bra. “So,” she said with exaggerated sweetness. “How can I help you?”

“Can you tell me when I checked in?”

She gave him a funny look, but turned to the computer. “Room 110, right?” She typed a few things and looked at the screen. “Tuesday morning, 9:30 am.”

“So were you here then?”


“Do you remember what I was like?”

“What do you mean – like, were you drunk or something like that?”

“No,” Sylar said. “Just – what kind of a person did I seem like to you?”

She raised a well-shaped eyebrow. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“No,” Sylar said, clenching his fists. “What the fuck would the punchline be if this were a joke?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t ask if it was a funny joke.”

“Do you remember or not?”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” she said, looking interested for the first time. “Is this some kind of Bourne Identity shit or what?”

“Maybe,” Sylar said, grabbing onto the idea. He should have thought of that himself; he really was off his game. “But how would I know if it was?”

“Good point.” She thought about it for a moment. “Yeah, I remember you now. You seemed real serious. And kind of – I don’t know, flat. Like a robot.”

“How was I dressed?”

“You were in a hoodie and wearing sunglasses,” she said. “Like the Unabomber. You know that shit only makes you stand out more, right?”

“What name did I give?”

She looked at the screen. “John Smith.”

John Smith?, Sylar thought. Seriously? He sighed. “Did I say anything to you that seemed strange?”

“Not really. You paid a week in advance with cash; that was it. We don’t ask a lot of questions here.”

“What kind of car do I have?”

She looked at the computer again. “A ’91 Geo Metro.”

Sylar rubbed his face. “What color?”


“Of course it is,” he muttered to himself. “Has anyone come here looking for me?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Have you seen me around at all this week?” She nodded. “Was I ever wearing thick-framed glasses?”

“No,” she said.

He sighed with relief.

“So you seriously don’t remember nothing?” she asked.

“You really want to know?”

She nodded and leaned forward a little.

“Give me back my $50.”

She leaned back again. “I’m not that curious,” she said. She picked up her magazine and propped her feet back up. “Good luck, though.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled. He left the office.

He walked through the parking lot, looking for his car. He tried to remain optimistic. It seemed that Gabriel hadn’t made an appearance at the motel. That was good news. And though his glorious SUV was gone, at least he wasn’t totally without transportation. His optimism faded when he saw the car. It was even worse than he imagined. It wasn’t just a used car – it was an abused car. He carefully opened the door, hoping it wouldn’t fall off.

The car miraculously started; he pulled out of the parking lot and started to drive, not sure at first where he was
going. The whole situation didn’t make a lot of sense. The sale of the SUV was sensible enough, but they obviously couldn’t live on $10,000 forever. What was the Will expecting them to do? Why were they in New Jersey? If the Will wanted to make a new start for Gabriel, it should have taken them as far away from New York as possible; Gabriel Gray was still wanted in New York for the murder of Virginia Gray.

Sylar realized he was thinking about this the wrong way, applying his own logic to the Will’s actions. The Will was adept at managing their inner workings, but it didn’t have a sophisticated understanding of what the outside world was like. While the Will had made some clumsy attempts at hiding their identity, it didn’t seem to realize exactly how much trouble they were in. It probably brought them to New Jersey because it felt safe, since Gabriel had spent many summers here. The Will was naïve enough to think that they could simply start fresh in a new town and no one would be the wiser.

Sylar knew better. If he stayed in one place, it was only a matter of time before someone caught up with him. The only way to evade capture was to stay on the move. He should get out of the country; with the money he had, it shouldn’t be too difficult. However, that didn’t solve the problem of what was happening inside him; there was nowhere he could run to escape that. If he fought the other Gears, could he win? What would happen if he didn’t; or, just as worrying, what would happen if he did? Was it possible to get rid of them without destroying himself?

Without being conscious of it, he found himself driving to the shore, one that was away from the boardwalk amusements. Not that there were many people around anyway; it was mid-September, and the cloudy sky promised rain soon. Even so, there was one stubborn family on the shore, attempting to make the best of things. The poor weather hadn’t dampened their good mood. The two little girls were holding their towels out behind them like capes, giggling as the wind whipped them back and forth. They proclaimed themselves superheroes while their parents watched, snuggled together under a beach umbrella. They were sharing some private joke, giggling as much as their children.

It was low-tide. Sylar took his shoes off and let the water lap over his feet. Although the water was ice-cold, the sensation anchored him to his body and made him feel less likely to be swept away by the stronger currents of his own mind. He’d been wrong earlier; he wasn’t the same monster he was before. Going back to being a killer was just as impossible as the fake life he’d tried to make with Mohinder. He had changed, or rather, he wanted to change, which in and of itself was an enormous transformation. The searing need still burned inside him, but maybe he could tame it. He wanted to be someone – a person who was whole, and real, and loved.

He was struck suddenly with the urge to keep walking until the water engulfed him. He was immortal now; maybe he couldn’t die by drowning. It started to rain. The family on the shore scrambled to pack their things. Sylar stayed however, knee-deep in the water, for a long time. He turned back eventually and put his shoes back on. He didn’t know what direction he’d take now, but he wasn’t going to give up yet.

He drove back to the motel. When he pulled into the parking lot, Angel rushed out of the office and flagged him down. He rolled down the window. “What is it?”

“There was a man looking for you,” she said breathlessly. “Some guy in a suit and glasses. He showed me your picture and asked if I seen you.”

Sylar felt cold all over. “What did you say?”

“I told him to give me $50.”

“Did he?”

“Yeah. And then I told him I’d never seen you before.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”

“I’d get out of here if I was you,” she said. “He looked like someone who wasn’t going to give up that easy.”

“I’m planning to,” Sylar said. He was about to park the car, but paused. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but why are you helping me now?”

She shrugged. “It’s always the good guys who lose their memory, right? And anyway, that guy was an asshole.”

You have no idea, he thought, but managed to keep it to himself. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“When you get your memory back, send me flowers,” she said. “No, wait – better make it jewelry.”

He smiled. For once, it wasn’t a put-on or an attempt to manipulate anyone. He smiled because he felt grateful.

Sylar went to the suite and grabbed the money and the clothes that weren’t Gabriel’s. He didn’t know how they had found him, but it didn’t really matter. While he sure as hell wasn’t going to give Bennet the satisfaction of bringing him in, he wasn’t going to go back on the run, either, and he wasn’t going to be a killer. He wanted to start a life – one that would be his own and no one else's. However, the Gears were still turning in him and he didn't know how to stop them. For that, he was going to need some help.

He needed to talk to Peter.

Onto Chapter Seven!
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