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And now, without further adieu -
Nathan stares at the invitation and then back at the tent where the party of sorts is waiting for him. He glances up at the sky for a moment – it's going to rain – before making a face at the turkey on the cover and frowning. "I'm not supposed to be here," he says slowly, to no one in particular, but staring in particular at the turkey, and feeling rather silly doing so.
Something Peter would do - talking to a paper turkey.
"Hey man, are you coming? I'll tell you, the food looks fantastic! As if we're back home." Nathan looks at the other guy – because that's just what he is to him, that other guy, who isn't Nathan, and isn't Peter, and isn't anyone, really, not to him – and shrugs, not sure if this Other Guy could possibly know how homesick Nathan feels right now.
Not like he would admit it.
That Other Guy has been stationed here for close to two months now, but Nathan still rolls his eyes when he makes a comment about how much he misses his mom's cooking, thinking, what could you possibly know about missing your family, already feeling like he is very much superior to this man already.
(Nathan does not know it yet, but he will be made an OF-8 officer within two week's time, surpassing this man's rank greatly.)
"Right, time for food, then," Nathan says, and puts his arm around his shoulder, despite not really wanting to. "The menu itself looks pretty good, too."
"Yeah, I thought—" he makes to reply, but they are already inside of the tent, and Nathan doesn't hold on for longer than he feels like he has to, seating himself next to a group of people who almost seem to emulate and idolize him, grinning like a shark as soon as he spots the massive amounts of food.
His dad had called him and told him that he would get him out – influence and money and Linderman and all – by Thanksgiving.
Nathan looked around himself.
This is not home.
The speech is short and Nathan wants to punch something, or someone anyway, and when Mark suggests going to the cathouse he grins without meaning to.
"Turkey?" Another guy – Dick or Roger or Henry; he forgot – grins a nearly toothless grin at him, and Nathan feels like knocking the ones leftover out of his mouth as well, but instead, just smiles and says, "Gobble, gobble," taking the plate from him.
There are people screaming everywhere. Peter is not allowed to touch anything, or, at least not until dinner, when he will only be allowed to touch the food, and everyone else is touching everything, and he doesn't really understand why he has to sit there and feel pathetic.
It's not like he's always particularly fancied this holiday – most holidays at the Petrelli house are complete and utter madness, what with his mother and father wanting to prove that their Great Big Italian Petrelli Mansion really is the biggest, and that over one hundred dark-haired Petrellis, along with their Petrellispawn, can easily fit into this house and be fed and happy.
Except… they always seem to forget that the people living here should be fed and happy, too. Fed is usually not a problem. There is more than enough food to go around for everyone. It's more so the happy part. So what if Cousin Freddie and Uncle Ralph and Grandma Phillipa are happy, when he's sitting there, feeling rather miserable?
It doesn't make sense to him.
He feels the distinctive thud of a rubber ball hitting the side of his head, and his lips thin in irritation. If he had been wearing headphones, this would not have happened, but his mother had told him to be nice and hospitable to his relatives, and that it's not good etiquette to wear headphones and listen to music and try to ignore them.
Peter disagrees, silently, and stares at the china pattern in front of him.
His mother has had these same plates and cups and utensils as a set for as long as Peter can remember, he realizes. It's not even like they are special or peculiar at all. They are just plates and cups and saucers and knives and forks that have been around for longer than Nathan has, and have found their way onto their very large dining table at every Big Event Peter can think of. Maybe that is why his mother and father invite everyone over all the time, Peter thinks, leading to a crowded, noisy, messy, dirty house – just so they can pull out the china set.
To his right, one of his demented cousins seems to have found one of those noisemaker horns, and has decided that it would be the best idea to, right at this very moment, toot it in his ear.
Peter does not scream, although he wants to.
Peter does not strangle Betty, although he wants to.
Peter does not throw things at the wall like Jack is, although he wants to.
Instead, he gets up slowly, steadily, knuckles white from how hard and how badly he is digging his fingernails into his palm, his hands formed into fists, really wanting to punch something, but pushing it back yet again as he walks over to the stairs, by the really, really little kids, by cousin Freddie, arguing with Uncle John about her clothes or something equally stupid, by where his mother is standing, in the study, talking to his father instead of cooking because they have maids and cooks to take care of that – "I know you miss him – we all do – but he's doing the right thing. Following in your footsteps." "Really Angela, I couldn't be more proud. And the others are finally taking notice, it seems. I think we're going to be right after all." "Nathan will be the one we need… just not on Thanksgiving." – and by the sitting room, not even trying to make sense of what his mother and father were just talking about.
Up the stairs, down the hallway, past more brats, turning the corner, into his room, slamming the door. If only he had a lock on his door, Peter thinks, trying very hard to block out how much everyone is talking about Nathan, and Nathan being gone, and Nathan being wonderful, and Nathan being like his dad, and how proud everyone is of Nathan, and how sad it is that he can't be here, and Peter slams his head against his headboard in irritation.
Running his fingers through his hair in agitation, he pulls his knees up to his chest, wishing his hair would be longer. It was a miracle in and of itself that Peter had found the courage to go up to his mother to ask for that haircut.
Now he just needs to wait for the sides to sort of grow longer, so he can sort of flip it like Nathan used to when he had it grown out longer, and now he's thinking of Nathan again and none of this is good at all.
He stares down at the fingernail of his thumb, realizing that he chipped a piece of it off somewhere, sometime, and he sort of runs his other thumbnail over the dent of sorts before remembering that there is a reason he keeps a journal on and off.
Getting up off his bed he grabs his headphones and CD player – he's managed to sneak off now, there is no reason for him to not get to indulge if at least for the moment – and gets a small black leather book off the top of his bookshelf.
The pages are thin and covered with stains from the odd glass of milk here and there, making them somewhat flaky and brittle and worn, but in a good sort of way, Peter thinks, smiling to himself when he finds cookie crumbs in between the pages.
Somewhat unsure, he flips the pages, not sure what he is looking for for just a moment until he suddenly is stopped at one page, a picture slipped between the folds.
It's dated to 1985 and Peter stares at it for a moment or two, realizing that that day had, in fact, been Thanksgiving, too, and he stares at Nathan, and how there he was on that Thanksgiving as opposed to this one.
"But I don't want any turkey! They're scawy!" Peter pouts sort of big and sticks his bottom lip out as if trying to demonstrate with its help just how very scary these turkeys really are.
"Nathan, would you talk some sense into your younger brother?" he hears his mother say, an edge to her voice that he Does Not Like but doesn't know what to do about. There's other kids running around everywhere, bigger, smaller, nice, mean – one of them has hit Peter, but he hasn't told Nathan – hasn't told anyone because Nathan pulled him aside before all of the 'wewativs' arrived to tell him that he is so proud of him that he's putting up with all of this, and what a big boy he thinks he is being. Peter's heart swelled with happiness at the time, and now is not the time to turn that around, even if his wrist hurts a lot and he has taken to hiding it under his sweater.
Nathan hasn't said anything and Peter looks down at his sweater-covered hand with a frown. "I don't like my sweater, brother Nathan. It's itchy. And it smells like gramma's house."
He watches with big eyes as Nathan sighs and looks down at him somewhat sadly. He doesn't like that look at all, and sticks his bottom lip out again as if in protest.
"I told you, you don't have to call me brother. Nathan is just fine. And you really should just listen to mom. She gets angry so easily with all of these people around. I know you don't like them, but you have to put up with them at least for a little bit more, okay? You've done so well so far – I'm so proud of you. Just stick it out for a little more, okay?"
Peter nods hesitantly, staring at the floor for a moment, twisting his hand over his hidden wrist, which is sort of throbbing. He is being such a big boy. He bites on his lip, thinking that maybe sucking in his lips instead of sticking them out might make more of a difference, and when Nathan says a quick, "come here," and picks him up and sits him on his lap, he thinks he may have been right for a moment.
"I don't wanna go back to Kindagaden, but I don't wanna be with them." He points at the general crowd, making a face and pouting down at his wrist again before realizing that pouting does not help, and he gives Nathan a small lip-less smile.
"Hey," Nathan says, "What's wrong, huh? Is it just the scary turkeys? The itchy sweater? The—" but he's cut off when his mother walks over and clears her throat. "What did I say about taking him on your lap, Nathan? He's not a baby anymore, he's going to grow up and drink nothing but milk, honestly."
Peter sort of wants to cry when Nathan wordlessly puts him back on the floor, and his lips reappear as he says, "No! No!" pulling on his big brother's sleeve.
Somewhere a flash goes off and Peter feels frozen in the moment for just a second before starting to cry, his wrist coming undone from his sweater. "It hurts!" he whimpers into Nathan's sleeve, feeling his resolve about Being A Big Boy slowly slipping away from him along with his desire to eat turkey.
"What hurts?" Nathan asks, and it's all Peter can do to bravely hold out his hand, praying to the Gods of Thanksgiving that he hasn't failed Nathan now.
He watches attentively as his big brother slowly pushes the sleeve up his arm, letting it rest sort of bunched up and wrinkly near his elbow, before he takes his wrist in his hand – very softly – his fingers coming out to feel the area where it doesn't quite hurt and then—
"Ow!" Peter complains, and Nathan looks worried. Peter isn't sure whether this is a good or a bad thing, but he suddenly realizes that this could possibly keep him from having to eat turkey.
"It's sprained ma, I think," he hears him say, and feels very proud for a moment. A sprain! Imagine that! He is a big enough boy to have a sprain! Something obviously Very Important, worth worrying over! The pain suddenly doesn't feel all that bad anymore, and Peter's lips disappear again as he smiles up at his big brother, the bearer of the news of the Very Bad Sprain that only Big, Brave Boys have.
"What on earth happened Petey?" Nathan asks, and Peter wants to tell him all about his story of woe, filled with Very Bad Pain and him being Very Brave and how Cousin Freddie was being just awful and slammed the oven door on his wrist, but his mother cuts him off. "I guess the turkey will just have to wait then," she says and sighs, and Peter actually feels happy.
It's a good thanksgiving.
The Cure comes on his CD Player and Peter feels at home, if only just for a moment, reliving memories instead of trying to live new ones that won't be better even if they try, and—
When his door bursts open, Peter yelps just as Robert Smith sings the Spiderman is having me for dinner tonight, jumping up a few feet off his bed, his journal falling off of his lap, off of his bed, laying haphazardly on the ground somewhere, his headphones askew, Nameless Cousin One and Nameless Cousin Two running in with water guns in their hands, making various gun-noises that squirty guns just did not make on their own, getting his floor wet, and tripping over things, knocking things over, and stepping on his CDs and—
It's almost sort of in slow motion, Peter realizes as he watches, scratch, scratch, like in the movies when something Very Dramatic happens, either Very Good or Very Bad, and he hears himself say something – maybe it was no? – just as he watches his favorite CD – it's always the favorite, the collector's edition, the first The Cure album, Three Imaginary Boys, only released in the UK in 1979 - shatter to pieces. Gone.
Peter wants to cry, scream, tear his hair out, anything but go back downstairs which will inevitably happen now anyway, and his room is wet and messy and then the door opens again.
"What's going on?" his mother asks, giving Peter a look, and he just sort of stares back at her, feeling sort of savage, deranged, mad for a moment more, his gaze flickering swiftly from The Disaster, to His Mother, and back to The Disaster.
"Nothing. Nothing's going on," Peter grinds out, feeling very much like an unhinged, amputated melon with its legs cut off. If melons had legs.
The boys run out of the room, and his Mother sort of stares at his wall for a second, "I suggest you rejoin us downstairs for Thanksgiving dinner, it'll be ready soon. And take those headphones off, please."
He watches her leave just like that, and sort of gets up, too, casting a look at his broken CD, and wishing it was his wrist instead for the first time in years, because this, if anything, did not making him a hero, and, even if it did, Nathan is not here to witness it, and so there is nothing left to do but walk back downstairs, legs shaky, as if in a dream of sorts. Turkey.
Peter hates turkey.
Gabriel Gray hates ham.
He's always sort of hated it – especially if it's a HAM, and not just ham, without any articles in front of it to make it all special and large and to be bought in bulk. Ham is all right. Although they always cut it much too thick, Gabriel thinks, wishing for more bread and less ham and feeling rather deviant at the thought.
But if it's a whole ham he is truly doomed.
Slices of it, half an inch thick – Shakespeare would be ashamed; it wasn't even painted, it was just ham - and they would sit in the fridge for weeks on end after a holiday or something equally silly because of all the ham in abundance everywhere, just on a plate, there to taunt him. Everywhere.
And now that he hears the cheap electric knife BZZZZZZZRRRRRRRRRRRR to life, Gabriel Gray sits and watches in horror as it cuts through the ham in thick slices. Watches in horror as one such slice is deposited on his plate, next to a pitiful pile of peas and a miserable mass of mashed… well, he isn't really sure if it's made of potatoes, although his mother claims that it is.
Either way, it's a pretty terrible sight, filled with alliteration and woe, and Gabriel Gray contemplates once again, why they couldn't have just had a nice fortress instead of a boring centerpiece.
"A what?" his mother had asked in the store, and he had pointed to it. "Oh, a cornucopia. No, no, that would clash terribly with my centerpiece."
"But things can flow out of it like fruits and it would be amazing!" he had attempted, but it was to no avail.
He had not known how dire the situation really was.
Now, the centerpiece with its flowers and fake fruits and vegetables seemingly staring back at him tauntingly, he willed to ignore it, staring instead at the ham – marginally better – slowly being BZZZZRRRRR-ted off slice by slice, until he noticed—
"Mom! Is that… behind the ham, is that… corn on the cob???"
He pauses for a moment, seemingly searching the air for something off. "What on earth was that noise?"
"What noise?" his mother asks in irritation.
"That noise… I don't… that heavenly choir!" Gabriel insists, but the noise is already gone again, and so he just shakes his head, shrugging it off.
"I don't know what you're talking about – you want to know what I think it is? I think you've been reading too many of those comic books again and now you're hearing things – just wait, soon you'll go around insisting you have powers like they do!"
"I want to be special," Gabriel says somewhat quietly.
"You are. Very special. Just… in a normal person sort of way." She nods her head at that, apparently pleased with her answer, and he decides to start a staring match of sorts with the corn on the cob.
"It's so messy," he says more to himself than to anyone else, and yet his mother immediately pipes in, "what did you say?"
"I said, it's so messy. The corn on the cob. Anyway, with the butter and having to salt it because it's so flavorless alone and the no utensils. I think corn on the cob would be much better, and—honestly, what on earth is that noise?"
"My food isn't flavorless!" she looks almost indignant and for the first time since the familiar BZZZZZZZZZZRRRRRRR came on, his father articulates a well-placed sporfle before starting up the electric knife again.
"Why do I have to switch schools anyway? My teachers liked me." It's a bad time to bring this up, and he knows it, because it's Thanksgiving, the holiday that really Isn't, but it's a good a time as any in the Gray household.
"What on earth does that mean. Aren't you thankful?? This is a day to be thankful, Gabriel, for all the Lord has given us, not question His judgment!"
"But this wasn't His judgment, it was yours. I could deal with the bullies, really. This isn't even really Thanksgiving. There's no turkey. There's never turkey. There's always ham! Sometimes there's even tuna! And, well, the other thing that I'm not going to name now because… that noise."
"Gabriel, please be respectful… Abraham, would you please tell your son to be respectful?"
"Gabriel, be respectful," his father grinds out before sitting down wordlessly and returning his attention to his food. He could almost hear him roll his eyes.
"Ham sandwiches for weeks," Gabriel squeaks, and winces at his plate.