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heroes fic: this isn't just a road trip

Fandom: Heroes
Title: This Isn't Just a Road Trip
Rated: PG-13
Starring: Matt/Janice, Mohinder, Molly
Spoilers: Up until 2x04, The Kindness of Strangers

\[ this isn't just a road trip ]

by kHo


The first hint, if he thinks back on it, comes right around the time he gets out of the hospital.

He’s still sore as hell, and the meds he’s on make him woozy and alternately nauseous and ravenous, and Janice is the picture-perfect nurturing wife. That’s not the weird part. The weird part is that while she’s giving him water and food and fetching him blankets, she’s compiling grocery lists in her head.

“Honey, I’m cold.”

“Of course, sweetheart,” she says, tight smile on her face. She’s never been the wait-on-you-hand-and-foot type, but she’s trying, and that’s the important part.

As she’s tucking the blanket around him he hears her, because he can’t control it very well with the hydrocodone muting his inhibitions. He hears: apples, bananas, cranberries, dehydrated fruit, éclairs, fig newtons…

It’s not always food. Sometimes it’s animals. Sometimes it’s bands. Sometimes there isn’t any kind of pattern, just random words strung together with nothing connecting them: giraffes, hieroglyphics, igloos, jumangi, Kilimanjaro, lollipops…

“Babe,” he says one day, a week in, when she’s repeating the names of horrible eighties bands in her head, “something going on?”

“What,” she asks, and then: oh, god, reading my mind again, god damnit, Matt. “Why? Was there something you needed?”

He frowns, cursing the fog clouding up his brain. “No, I just-- you seem distracted.”

“Oh,” she says, smiling. Thank God. She sits next to him on the couch, gingerly fitting herself around him so she doesn’t press too hard into the bandages on his chest. “No, I’m just… I almost lost you. It still scares me sometimes.”

He kisses the top of her head and listens to her counting backwards from one thousand and thinks it’s really kind of amazing that they both know he can read her mind, and yet are so good at pretending they don’t remember that part.

*

A little over a month after he’d gotten out of the hospital he weans himself off of the drugs, because he’s seen way too many cops get hurt in the line of duty turn into drug addicts in their recovery. It still hurts sometimes to breathe too deeply, but it’s nothing he can’t handle.

Mohinder brings Molly down the first week of December for a visit.

“Good to see you back up on your feet.”

Matt grins, leaning back in the chair. “Actually, I’m on my ass right now.”

Mohinder laughs, looking around Matt’s living room. “But you were on your feet to get to the chair in which you are now on your ass, so.”

“This is true,” Matt says, leaning forward to watch Molly playing in the kitchen with Janice. Janice is baking cookies and Molly is putting flour on her face like it’s makeup. It’s really kind of adorable and Matt can’t help but grin. “So,” he says, turning his attention back to Mohinder. “She’s doing good? No more outbursts?”

“She has bad dreams sometimes, of the man who can see her,” Mohinder says with a small frown. “She calls him her nightmare man. The thing is… I don’t think it’s Sylar.”

Matt frowns. “Well who else would it be?”

“I don’t know, but it can’t be Sylar,” Mohinder answers, lowering his voice. “Sylar’s dead.”

Matt raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, we assume, but we never found the body.”

Mohinder’s smile is sharp and bitter. “So we’re lead to believe. These people cover their tracks pretty well, from what I understand.”

“Mm,” Matt says, nodding. “Janice has been having nightmares too. Maybe it’s just the time of year.”

“Or maybe it’s the fact that her husband was at death’s door only a month ago,” Mohinder says pointedly.

Matt leans back in his chair, wincing slightly at the pull in his chest. “I don’t know. It’s not just nightmare’s though. It’s during the day too. She’s distracted a lot.”

Mohinder gives him a look. “In what way?”

“She…” Matt pauses, leaning closer to Mohinder and lowering his voice. “She’s been compiling lists. Endlessly. Like she’s some kind of idiot savant, ya know, like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman.”

Mohinder laughs. “I believe the politically correct term is autistic.”

“No, but it’s like an obsession. Like, obsessive compulsive.” Matt frowns, motioning with his hands. “There isn’t a moment that goes by that she’s not compiling some sort of list. And it’s not even a list that makes sense, it’s not like a list of things to accomplish, it’s random things.”

Mohinder shakes his head. “You really need to stop reading people’s minds when they haven’t given you permission.”

“I’m just worried about her,” Matt says, looking back in the kitchen and watching her help Molly spread out the cookie dough. “She’s so tired all of the time.”

“Well maybe Molly and Janice should join a support group or something,” Mohinder says, laughing slightly. “An Insomniacs Anonymous support group.”

“Is it really that bad,” Matt asks, feeling his heart go out to Molly. Poor sweet little kid, she didn’t ask for all this baggage that got dropped at her feet. “For Molly, I mean.”

Mohinder nods. “She tries not to sleep. I caught her at three in the morning trying to make herself coffee.”

Matt sighs. “Maybe she should see somebody. Like a psychologist.”

Mohinder lets out a snort. “Do you know of any psychologists that specialize in telepathic dream-related trauma? Because if you do, I’d appreciate the recommendation.”

Matt groans. “Yeah, I guess they would kind of just write her off as psychotic. No one’s gonna believe that she’s actually telling the truth.”

That night Matt lies awake in bed long past midnight, going over and over and over any way he can think of to help Molly. Janice is asleep next to him and her fingers are clawing into the comforter, and it drives him nuts that the women he loves the most in his life are going through such a hard time right now and there’s not a damn thing he can do about it.

Matt… Matt, please… wait… no, don’t go… please come back…. He glances over at Janice, fear and excitement grabbing him at the same time. Until this very moment he’d never known he could hear dreams.

Closing his eyes he concentrates on hearing everything in Janice’s head. Her voice is distant and small, and so very, very scared. She keeps calling out for him but not once does he hear himself answer.

He lays a hand down on her shoulder and rubs it lightly, lowering his lips to her ear. “I’m right here,” he whispers, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her up against him. “I’m not going anywhere.”

She settles down then, her mind going blank, nothing coming through to him except the sound of her breath as she falls into a deeper, hopefully more peaceful, sleep.

This, he decides. This is how he can help them.

*

Molly’s dreams are of things that make Matt’s skin crawl. Things that even the most hardened police officer would get sick at. She dreams of a shabby old apartment, cockroaches in every corner, the stink of rotten food. She dreams of blood, dark red blood, everywhere, on floors, walls, hands. On her, on the man she sees in her dreams. Matt can hear a man in the background, deep gravelly baritone, laughing. It’s a maniacal laugh, a laugh that sends shivers down his spine and makes Molly wake up screaming, sweat dripping down her forehead and into her eyes, mixing with her tears.

Six nights out of the past seven he’s spent sleeping in a rocking chair next to Molly’s bed, and when she dreams he wakes, goosebumps raising on his arms at the first ragged intake of breath from her. When she wakes he’s by her side, running his fingers through her hair and making promises that he can’t even keep, like it’ll be alright and that the bad man will never hurt her. You can’t make promises like that, not in real life, you can never ensure someone’s safety, but with Molly he can’t help himself. He’d give her life for her and it scares the shit out of him that that might not be enough, not if this man in her dreams is really out there.

Janice’s dreams are all the same, even when they’re different. In every single one of them Matt is leaving her, or has left, or can’t be found. There are dreams in which she’s calling out for him without anyone ever calling back. Dreams in which she’s screaming for him to not leave her, to please forgive her, she’d never meant to hurt him. Dreams in which she sounds like she’s falling apart and he honestly gets angry with himself for not putting her back together in her dream.

It breaks his heart that this is what she dreams about. He tells her in all the ways he knows how, when she’s asleep and when she’s awake, that he’ll never leave her. He buys her flowers for no reason, and makes her favorite meals. He tries in every way he knows how to let her know that he’s forgiven her for cheating on him, because he honestly has. Because he gets it, gets why she did it. He wasn’t there for her, and he knows it.

The dreams don’t stop, for either of them.

*

Mohinder takes Molly back to New York with him just before Christmas and it hurts Matt so much to say goodbye that he gets filthy stinking drunk for the first time since his injuries. The next morning, blearily drinking coffee and picking at his eggs he tells Janice that he thinks they should move to New York.

She turns around, eyes huge. “What?”

“I know,” he says, raising his hands. “I know, it sounds crazy, but it could work.”

“I… I have a life here, Matt, I have a job.”

He stands, warming to the idea. “There are plenty of law firms in New York. Nathan Petrelli could get you a job like that, and I know he would. I bet he’d even give you a position in his firm!”

Janice shakes her head. “No. No, Matt, we’re not following Mohinder and Molly to New York.”

He takes a deep breath, approaching her. “Listen, honey, I can’t… I can’t abandon her. She trusts me. I told her I’d protect her.”

“Let Mohinder protect her,” Janice says, angrily whirling on him. “She’s not your god damned responsibility Matt!”

“Yes she is,” Matt says, getting angry right back. “She’s my responsibility. Janice, she needs me.”

Janice laughs, and it’s a very, very ugly sound. “She doesn’t need you, Matt. She’s not your daughter.”

It feels like a slap to the face. “Do you really just not care,” he asks incredulously. “She’s just a baby, Janice.”

“She’s not our child, Matt,” Janice yells, rolling her eyes. “We can’t just uproot our lives and start over in a brand new city just because you got attached to a stray.”

“A stray,” he says, barely able to control the urge to yell right back at her. “Well you know what, Janice? She’s not a stray to me. I love her like she’s my own. And I gotta tell you, this doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence about what kind of mother you’ll be if you can’t muster up enough emotion to think of Molly as anything more than a stray.”

He regrets it almost immediately, watching her eyes fill up with tears as she turns to flee the room, but he can’t quite muster up enough regret to follow her.

*

It all comes to a head one night when Matt can’t sleep, lying next to Janice in bed blinking up at the ceiling. It’s been a few weeks since their fight over New York and Janice’s dreams have been getting worse again. He’s started tuning her out because he just can’t take the guilt any more but this night he tunes back in.

Please don’t go, she says. I didn’t know he wasn’t yours.

He doesn’t sleep at all that night.

“Tell me,” he says the next morning, not even bothering to sit down at the table.

She looks at him, looking amused. “Tell you what?”

He grits his teeth. “Janice. Tell me.”

She blinks, and he knows that she knows, just by the look in her eyes. He doesn’t even need to read her mind. “Tell you what, sweetheart?”

He closes his eyes, fists clenching. “Don’t call me that. Don’t you dare call me…” He takes a deep breath, opening his eyes again and looking straight into hers. “Tell me whose baby it is.”

She freezes, like she thinks if she’s still enough he won’t be able to see her anymore. Apples, bananas, cranberries, donuts… “Matt--”

"This is why,” he shouts, eyes widening. “This is why you've been compiling your stupid, meaningless lists, your endless goddamn makes-no-sense lists! You've been blocking me!"

She swallows. “Matt, I--”

“No, you know what? Just don’t,” he says, holding up a hand, grabbing his wallet, backing out of the kitchen. “You don’t even have to say it, I’m an idiot. I’m a huge fucking idiot for never even once stopping to think that there’s a chance this kid isn’t mine.”

“Matt!”

“Don’t,” he yells, holding up his hand again. “I can’t even look at you.”

The tears falling down her face just feel like even more of a betrayal. “It might not be his. I’m not sure, Matt. The timing… the due date… I could be wrong. Matt, please, I could be wrong, it might be yours.”

He shakes his head. “You know, the cheating… the cheating I could’ve gotten past,” he says, feeling like ice has made it’s way into his veins. The utter calm he feels in this moment scares the crap out of him. “The lying. The hiding. The fact that you don’t respect me enough, love me enough… think enough of me. The fact that you didn’t tell me, right from the start, that this might not be my child?”

“Please, Matt--”

“I’m leaving,” he says, and just like that his mind is made up. “I’m going to New York. You can follow or not, but this? Us? We’re over, Janice.”

He’s on a plane twelve hours later without ever having packed a bag.



Additional Notes: You probably don't understand the title, because it probably only makes sense in my head. Me and my family used to play what we called the A-B-C game on road trips, that's where I got the apple, banana, cranberry thing from. It's actually called "I went to the store".

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
sophiap
Oct. 25th, 2007 10:32 am (UTC)
What I love about this is that I both empathize with Matt and want to slap him, which just goes to show that you've captured the messiness of the whole situation very well.

Favorite quote:

"He kisses the top of her head and listens to her counting backwards from one thousand and thinks it’s really kind of amazing that they both know he can read her mind, and yet are so good at pretending they don’t remember that part."
nurse_stiney
Oct. 25th, 2007 11:39 am (UTC)
That was a BRILLIANT explanation for what could have happened in those four months. BRILLIANT. I feel SO horribly bad for Matt, it's ridiculous. And I'm not originally much of a Matt fan (it took the formation of the M^3 family for me to think he = love, LOL). I LOVE IT!!!
fool_of_ships
Oct. 25th, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC)
Wow...love the total plausibility of this. I think it's really made me realize that if you can't decide whether you want to hug Matt or slap him, he's being written right. And you got him right. Yay!
a_bit_befuddled
Oct. 25th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
This was amazing. It's very likely that this is exactly what happened and I loved the way you wrote it.

(By the way I understood the title as soon as I saw the first list and realized it was in alphabetical order. :3)
ivy_b
Oct. 25th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
I loved this. Poor Matt... Only thing is- when Nathan and Matt met in season 2, they acted like they never really met. So I doubt Nathan Petrelli would give Janice a job, when he doesn't even know her husband.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )