Rating/Warnings: PG-13, for language
Word count: 2,000
Spoilers: AU, but up to 1.17 ("Company Man"), to be safe.
Summary: Holocaust-era Heroes.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but the words.
A/N: Today we visit some strangely familiar territory with Peter and Claude, and Bennetti learns a secret. (Previous chapters)
It's a cold, grey morning when they find themselves on the outskirts of Liége, coats and shoes still damp from the previous night's deluge. At Bennetti's nod, they all link hands, and Claude and Peter render them all invisible.
"Anyone starts shooting, you get down and stay down," says Claude, soberly. "And don't, for Christ's sake, let go."
Peter nods; Sandrine and her husband exchange glances.
Sandrine's sister, Helène, lives in a quiet street, yellow stucco walls gently flaking with age. When she answers the door, she gives a silent shriek and covers her mouth and envelopes Sandrine in an enormous hug, all in one breath.
Inside, Sandrine introduces Peter and Claude to Helène, and she smiles that same sweet smile and insists they sit down at the dining table while she prepares some food. She and Sandrine disappear into the kitchen and from time to time, whispers and giggles and what might or might not be sobs can be heard.
Helène's husband is away, fighting the war; the big house feels empty, and Peter is glad when Sandrine and Helène return, bringing a steaming pot that Helène places on the table.
They leave Liége with their bellies full of hot soup and good bread, and the image of Sandrine and Helène lingering in the doorway, hands clasped tight, Sandrine's eyes fixed on Bennetti's.
Once out of town, Bennetti navigates them to the railway line. "We should be able to pick up one of the freight trains coming through."
They remain invisible, walking along the tracks, Bennetti strung between Peter and Claude. Nobody feels like talking much.
After a while, the rumble of tracks forces them onto the embankment, and an old freight train sidles slowly past. Peter looks to Bennetti, who shakes his head. "Wrong direction." Peter nods, the points of the compass lost to him, here; impossible to be sure without the sun.
Bennetti seems to have no such difficulties, and when the next train evicts them from the tracks, he nods to them. "This one."
The train isn't moving very fast, and they scramble up into an empty freight car, Claude pulling Peter in and then tugging Bennetti up behind him. The car is cold, but when Peter makes to slide the door to, Bennetti shakes his head; they need the view, to navigate by.
After an hour of trundling that is, admittedly, rather faster than their usual walking speed, Peter's nose feels frozen, and he stomps up and down the car to keep his feet warm.
Claude watches him, an inscrutable expression on his face.
"What is it?" Peter claps his gloved hands together, trying to shock them into circulation.
Claude tilts his head to one side. "If you want some exercise, maybe now's a good time for some trainin'."
"Yeah, mate. Trainin'. Reckon it's time you started getting a proper grip on those powers of yours." And Peter sees Claude and Bennetti exchange what he feels sure is a significant look - only he isn't really catching the significance, whatever it is.
"But ... I can stay invisible! I did it all the way through Liège!"
Claude nods, slowly. "Yeah, you can. But is it any use when someone does this?" And Claude grabs a stick from the corner of the car and swings it, with little warning, straight down towards Peter's head.
There's a dull impact that burns slowly across the top of Peter's skull. "OW!"
They stare at each other.
"Well, I sort of expected you to move," says Claude, apologetically, after a long moment. "But that does illustrate my point, yeah?"
Peter steps backwards and puts a hand to his scalp; his fingers find a thin smear of blood. "Are you out of your godverdomme mind?" He looks to Bennetti, as if for confirmation of this fact.
Bennetti looks overly serious, as though trying not to laugh. "While I agree with you that Claude's methods leave something to be desired, I do see his point."
"Which is?" Peter frowns, rubbing his head.
"That you're our best chance of saving my daughter." Bennetti's expression is utterly sombre, and Peter thinks he must just have imagined the laughter, after all.
Claude steps forward and lifts a hand towards Peter's head. "Let's— Christ, I'm not goin' to hurt you," as Peter flinches, "I just want to have a look at your head, yeah?"
Peter sighs. "All right."
Claude combs aside Peter's hair with his hand, and smiles. "Nothin'. How about that?"
Peter explores the top of his head with careful fingers. "Well, at least I can heal." He scowls at Claude."I can't believe you hit me, though!" He sits down, leaning against the wall of the car, looking and feeling thoroughly put out.
Claude glances at Bennetti, who tactfully withdraws to the other end of the traincar, leaving Claude to squat down in front of Peter.
Peter will barely meet his eyes, and Claude sighs. "I'm sorry I hit you, all right?"
He receives a grumbled "Mmmph"; takes that as sufficient encouragement to continue. "But where we're goin', there's not goin' to be any warning. They'll shoot you soon as look at you, and—" Claude's voice drops low, pleading "—I can't let that happen."
Peter looks up at him from beneath dark ribbons of hair. "So, what— you're going to kill me yourself?"
Claude sighs. "Look," and he puts a hand on Peter's knee, leaning in. "You've no idea how useful your abilities could be - but you have to master them, Peter. Noah and I can show you how. Please. He's right, you know. You might be our best shot."
Peter scowls and scuffs his shoe in the dirt. "What do I know about rescuing someone from the godverdomme Nazis?"
Claude gives him a lopsided grin. "Nothin' - yet. But we've got a couple of days, an' that's a start."
" 'Cause you know all about it," Peter grumbles.
The look he catches from Claude is unexpectedly sharp. "I know what I'm doin'."
Claude stands. "C'mon, then." He pulls a somewhat reluctant Peter to his feet. "Take your coat off - you won't need it."
"Claude! It's freezing in here!"
"Off. If you're still cold in five minutes, you can have it back."
Peter sighs, and takes off the coat.
Claude hefts the stick. "Right. All you have to do is anticipate what I'm going to do next ..."
It's half an hour before Peter even has time to consider that he doesn't need the coat anymore.
His office is growing dark, despite the desk lamp's tired yellow persistence, but there are still so many matters to attend to before he can go home. Meneer Linderman is thoroughly preoccupied with a tiresome piece of legislation concerning public order, and does not hear the door opening until a pair of well-shined black boots steps across the threshold.
"Herr Linderman." The rich, accented voice rankles, dragging him irritably away from sub-clauses and footnotes.
He looks up, realising as he does so that Obergruppenführer Thomassen is accompanied by two guards. "Good evening, Mein Herr. And what can I do for you tonight?"
"On your feet, Herr Linderman."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Get up." Thomassen's tone is casually inexorable.
"Do you mind? I'm working."
Thomassen fixes him with a lazily amused gaze. "Yes ... you've been working hard, Herr Linderman. Very hard indeed."
Eyes narrowing, Linderman stands, reaching for his cane. "At least do me the courtesy of telling me why you are interrupting my work." He stares reproachfully at Thomassen over his spectacles. "The city will not run itself."
"Yes ..." and Thomassen's face crinkles with knowing humour. "What fascinates me, Herr Linderman, is how, despite your ... admirable ... dedication to the city, you have found time to assist so many special people in leaving the city. Please—" as Linderman waves a dismissive hand "—please, do not insult me or Der Führer by lying."
Linderman stands tall, though even thus, leaning heavily on his cane, he is still rather shorter than the S.S. officer. "What good will that knowledge do you if they are already gone?"
Thomassen smiles. It is not a pleasant smile. "The question you should be asking yourself, Herr Linderman, is what good will that knowledge do you?" Thomassen sighs. "Such a pity that you could not redeem yourself by giving up the boy."
"I'm afraid, Herr Thomassen, that he is simply not mine to give up."
"Yes. Well, I'm sure his brother will be more reasonable."
Linderman bristles. "Nathaniel Petrelli is a good man."
Thomassen's expression is droll. "Naturally." He gestures to the two junior officers. "Take him."
Oscar Linderman submits to the tight grip on his wrists, sighing when they do not allow him to collect his hat. It's growing quite cold outside, and the hair on his head is not as thick as it once was.
He lets them lead him outside, to the waiting car.
Claude nods wryly in the direction of the other end of the traincar, where Peter is sound asleep under his coat, head pillowed on a knapsack. "Christ, I miss sleepin' that well."
Bennetti chuckles, but it's a rueful sound. "Youth has the luxury of a clear conscience."
Claude snorts, humourlessly. "There's that, yeah."
Bennetti nods towards the unconscious form, oblivious of the countryside passing by outside in the falling light. "So ..."
Claude pauses, regarding Bennetti with some amusement. "Was wonderin' when you'd ask."
He receives a lofty glance. "Didn't like to give you the satisfaction."
Claude looks heavenwards and sighs. "You're a patient Hurensohn, you know that?"
Bennetti chuckles. "Been bothering you, that?"
Claude shrugs. "Yeah, well ... " He sighs. "And yeah, I've a pretty good idea why they want him." He pulls a book out of his pack and thumbs open the brown leather cover, flipping pages until he finds one with an illustration. Spreads the pages for Bennetti, tilting them to catch the last of the fading grey light. "Know what that is?"
Bennetti examines the illustration, then looks up at him, grimly. "If I didn't know better, I'd say it was Peter."
They both stare at the illustration, an early Renaissance woodcut depicting an explosion above a city, at the centre of which is a familiar-looking young man with dark hair falling over one eye.
"What book is this?" Bennetti frowns, fingers turning over the leather cover.
"Prophecies. Some occult nonsense Herr Doktor von Verschuer had on his shelf. Forgot all about it until that Hiro kid showed up, babblin' about having been to the future."
Bennetti flips open the book again and stares at the picture. "You don't actually think Herr Hitler—"
"I do, mate. That's exactly what I think." He meets Bennetti's eyes. "You know they couldn't get enough of this dreck."
Bennetti swallows and nods, his jaw set grim. "Has he met anyone who might be able to ... ?"
Claude shrugs. "No idea. He could've— it could be anyone."
Bennetti looks again towards Peter's sleeping form. "Have you told him?"
"No." Claude shakes his head. "Way I see it, he's got nothin' to gain from that."
A careful nod. "You know, we're taking one hell of a risk, bringing him with us."
"Don't think I haven't considered that." Claude looks across at Peter. "I'd half a mind to leave him with Nathaniel and take off." He runs a hand through his beard. Couldn't do it, God help me.
Bennetti sighs. "Well, we need him."
Claude looks towards Peter again, misgiving evident in his expression. "Yeah, mate. I know."
Somewhere to the south-west, the sun sets behind heavy grey cloud as the train wends its way towards Leipzig, and the east.
x-posted to heroes_fic and peterandclaude