Apartment hunting turned out to
be a chore made far easier by Molly’s presence. Not only did she “just love”
every single one, but the owners and managers seemed to instantly fall in love
with her. His father’s studio had been in
Bedroom doors were a necessity for his sanity.
The good news was that the
Company had deposited twenty thousand dollars in his bank account upon the day
he’d started curing Molly. Despite the sizable savings, Mohinder was thrifty by
nature and one morning of looking at the newspaper rents for
They developed a routine. Get up, have a cold breakfast of fruit and cereal at the hotel, go to the hospital to see Matt, then start apartment hunting. Lunch was generally right around as Molly got hungry fairly early. Then more apartment hunting in the afternoon before heading back to the hospital to see Matt again.
“Well, where are you looking?” Matt asked on their third unsuccessful day.
Mohinder sighed, rubbing at
tired eyes. “Everywhere. We’ve been to
The nurse snorted as she took Matt’s vitals, then cleared her throat and apologized, “Sorry.”
Amused, Mohinder waved it off and questioned, “I don’t suppose you’ve an idea of where to go, being local?”
Put on the spot, the woman gave
him a weak smile before answering, “Not really. Sorry. I have a place in
And that was when Mohinder realized that he’d completely neglected that part of the search and groaned, thumping his head against the bed. “I forgot about the school district! I’m a terrible guardian!”
Matt laughed softly and ruffled his hair with the arm not being used for a blood withdrawal. “Don’t sweat it, Mohinder, it’s your first week. I think we can cut you some slack. Right, Molly?”
She enthusiastically agreed, “Right!”
Mohinder straightened immediately at the unfamiliar voice and turned to find a woman standing in the door. She was slight with long brown hair and worried eyes. A quick once-over showed a slight bump in the midriff that generally indicated only one thing on an otherwise slender woman. Glancing back at Matt showed the normally robust man had paled to an alarming degree.
Matt finally stammered, “J-Janice! You’re here!”
Standing, Mohinder held his hand out to Molly, who quickly scrambled off the bed. “We’ll just, ah, you two clearly need some privacy.”
The nurse preceded him as he ushered Molly out of the room, feeling rather like he was abandoning Matt, but there was no help for it. He’d known the man was married from the ring on his finger. He hadn’t pressed for an explanation as to where the missing wife was simply because it wasn’t his business. They didn’t know one another that well yet.
“Mohinder, who was that lady?” Molly asked.
Mohinder sighed, looking anxiously at the now-closed door. “I believe that was Mrs. Parkman.”
Molly protested, “But we’re Matt’s family!”
Taken aback, both by her
tearful declaration and the fierceness with which it had been uttered, Mohinder
crouched down and took her hands in his. Gazing seriously at her, he said,
“Matt had a life before coming to
Molly shoved him with surprising strength and shouted, “No! He’s not leaving!” and running down the hall.
Mohinder grimaced at the jolt to his spine when he hit the floor, but was almost instantly back on his feet. He jogged after her, but was forced to stop when she retreated to the ladies room. Sighing, he settled in to wait for one or the other of the women to make an appearance. He had the distinct impression that Mrs. Parkman might yield first, having discovered Molly’s stubborn streak on more than one occasion over the last month or so.
* * * *
Matt heard Molly’s shout of, “No! He’s not leaving!” and winced. He’d known that she’d grown attached to him, but hadn’t realized it was so deep. He didn’t envy Mohinder having to deal with her in such a state.
“Are you…all right?” Janice asked hesitantly, walking closer.
Attention brought back to the present, Matt nodded and replied, “I’ll be fine.”
She stopped at the bed, prompting, “What happened? And why didn’t you call me when it happened?”
“Who did call you?” Matt stalled.
Right. Of course they would. Janice had power of attorney for him, being his wife.
Matt sighed, ignoring the pinch of too-tight skin and his aching chest to answer, “I was shot four times in the chest and abdomen. There was a six hour surgery to get the bullets out and repair the damage. They weren’t sure if my spine might have been involved, but it doesn’t look like it. I can wiggle my toes and move my feet okay.”
Janice flinched at his flat recitation of injuries and gasped, “My God! Matt! What did you get involved in?”
Naturally she would think the worst. The last time they’d talked, he’d confessed to stealing already stolen diamonds and then disappeared on her. Sighing, Matt explained, “You saw that little girl? Molly?”
“I tried to save her and others from a psychopath,” Matt told her. His mind flashed to the instant that he’d known that Sylar would send the bullets back at him and it took a concerted effort to continue with a steady voice, “I didn’t, but I managed to slow him down long enough for someone else to take him out.”
With a sword, of all things, he thought, still astounded.
Janice exclaimed, “What were you thinking, doing something so stupid!”
It was Matt’s turn to flinch. He hadn’t expected her to be happy about it, but such a harsh condemnation was a shock.
“You have a child on the way, Matt! Or, did you forget?” she continued. “You just up and left with no real explanation of when, or even if, you’d be back! What were you thinking?!”
She interrupted with, “No! I don’t want to hear it! You have responsibilities, Matt. To the baby, if not me. You can’t go around like this anymore, impulsively doing whatever you want!”
“Responsibilities? At least I didn’t sleep with your best friend!” Matt shouted, heart pounding hard enough to hurt.
Dead silence and then he heard her think, I knew he would bring that up! I knew it! I shouldn’t have come. Why can’t we ever get this right anymore?
Taking a breath, Matt finally said, “Look, I’m sorry. I’m not…I don’t want to fight with you, Janice. I appreciate you coming out here to check on me, but maybe you should leave.”
Janice looked as ill as he felt when she countered, “We need to talk, Matt. You can’t just shuffle me off like I don’t exist, like we don’t exist, just because you don’t like me right now.”
Matt’s pulse was racing too fast to concentrate on how to reply. His vision swam and he struggled to say something, anything, but nausea struck, closing his throat.
“Matt? Matt, are you okay?”
When he didn’t respond, unable to as darkness encroached and the pain in his chest increased, he vaguely heard her shout, “Help! I need some help in here!”
And then everything went black.
* * * *
Mohinder waited patiently a few feet down from the ladies room, knowing that Molly would eventually exit. If only to check on Matt. Shaking his head ruefully at the thought, Mohinder was just glad that the jealousy had gone away. He no longer saw the other man as competition, but rather support in protecting Molly. They’d talked about it the afternoon before, Molly sleeping peacefully on the bed with Matt, the big man’s hand stroking over her hair.
“Help! I need some help in here!”
Mohinder’s head jerked around at the shout and he found Matt’s wife to be the one who’d called out. Panic lit through him as nurses and a random doctor rushed into Matt’s room. He ran down the hall as fast as he could, long legs making short work of the trip. He skidded to a halt beside her and watched helplessly as the medical staff worked on Matt.
A nurse demanded, “What happened?”
The wife replied shakily, “We were, he was upset, we argued and then, I don’t know! He just, he passed out!”
“What the hell were you doing, arguing with a man who’s recovering from severe chest trauma?” Mohinder snarled.
The nurse didn’t say anything, but looked like she wanted to agree with him, turning from them both to assist the doctor in stabilizing Matt.
Small hands tugged at his shirt and he looked down to find a big-eyed, fearful Molly clutching at him. Mohinder immediately picked her up, holding her so that she couldn’t see what was going on in the room. The doctor shocking Matt with defibrillator paddles. A nurse injecting Matt with epinephrine. Medical jargon going back and forth as they brought Matt back from the dead.
Finally, the activity slowed and then stopped, relieved expressions on everyone’s face. Mohinder sighed shakily and leaned against the wall, his legs weak from the unexpected rush of adrenaline. He squeezed Molly and whispered, “He’s okay now, he’s going to be fine.”
The doctor walked up to them just then and glared at Mrs. Parkman. “I understand that you were the cause of his crisis?”
“Well, I just, we were talking and…”
“Out,” the doctor ordered flatly.
“I’m his wife! I have more right to be here than they do!”
Mohinder glared at her, aching to just rip into her.
The doctor did it for him with, “I don’t care who you are, you nearly killed him. You do not come back until he’s no longer in any danger of another relapse, understood?”
Clearly shocked, the woman nonetheless nodded and silently left without a protest.
Turning to Mohinder, the doctor softened a bit and promised, “He is going to be fine, Dr. Suresh. He’s stable now and his vitals are good. You can stay for a few minutes, but then you should go for the day. Come back tomorrow, okay?”
Mohinder nodded gratefully. “Thank you, so much.”
Winking, the doctor said, “Family has to stick together, right?” and then left.
Molly sat up at that and asked Mohinder, “He’s your family too?”
Understanding that the doctor thought himself and Matt to be a romantic couple, Mohinder answered, “No, not really. He was, ah, just being kind. Come now, let’s say good-night to Matthew and let him rest.”
She nodded and squirmed down from his arms, rushing over to the bed. One of the nurses petted her on the head on the way out, smiling at Mohinder as well.
He flushed, but smiled back as best he could, following Molly to the bed.
“Matt? The doctor says we have to go, but I won’t let the mean lady hurt you again, I promise,” Molly said earnestly. “We’ll keep you safe, just like you did for us.”
Mohinder swallowed against a thick throat when she kissed Matt’s cheek and then looked at him with simple expectation. He silently reached down and squeezed Matt’s hand before saying gruffly, “We’ll return tomorrow. Sleep well.”
Matt squeezed back unexpectedly and Mohinder startled, looking at the other man’s face to find him awake, if not completely aware.
“Wha’ppened?” Matt mumbled.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Mohinder explained, “You got in an argument with your wife and your body…it objected, shall we say?”
Matt tensed, the heart monitor speeding a bit.
Mohinder hastily assured him, “She’s gone, Matthew, calm down. The doctor’s barred her from your room. She won’t be back until you’re well.”
“The mean lady won’t come back and the doctor promised ‘cause he’s Mohinder’s family,” Molly piped up.
Matt’s eyebrows rose and Mohinder scrubbed fingers through his hair as he replied, “Just a slight misunderstanding on the staff’s part. They seem to think, well, that we’re a couple.”
Matt frowned for a moment before understanding dawned and then he started laughing. A deep, thoroughly amused sound that went straight through Mohinder, calming him even as it irritated.
“Excuse me, but it’s a perfectly valid assumption with the amount of time we spend here,” Mohinder retorted. “It’s not as though I couldn’t have anyone I wanted.”
Clearing his throat, seeming more alert, Matt rasped, “Sorry, Mohinder, no offense. I’m sure you could. I wasn’t laughing at you.”
Mohinder sniffed, not completely mollified. Still, he squeezed Matt’s hand again and ordered, “Get some sleep. We’ll be back in the morning.”
Matt nodded, still smiling, and told Molly, “Give me a kiss.”
Beaming, Molly did so and then took Mohinder’s hand. “Night, Matt!”
“Night Molly. Sleep well, Mohinder. Keep the bed warm.”
Mohinder snorted at the mischief in Matt’s eyes and didn’t bother replying, instead leading Molly from the room. He couldn’t resist a final glance back before the door closed and found himself distressed by the pale, wan sight of Matt no longer animated by conversation and proximity.
So it was that he was still agitated when Mrs. Parkman approached them while waiting for a cab. He saw her coming and knew a confrontation was inevitable. Not one to avoid confrontation, Mohinder looked down at Molly and told her, “Stay right here where I can see you. Do not move, understood?”
Molly nodded, asking, “Are you going to punish the mean lady?”
“I’m certainly going to do my best,” he confirmed, striding forward.
They met up under the awning by the curb, far enough away that Molly wouldn’t be able to hear unless they began shouting. For a long moment, they simply gazed at one another, assessing, and then she drew first blood.
“I assume you’re screwing my husband?”
Drawing up to his full height, Mohinder stated, “I am not. So far as I know, Matt has not cheated on you.”
Yet, being implied.
She stiffened and retorted, “I overheard the nurses talking about you and that girl. I also saw him with his hand in your hair. What right do you have, breaking up our marriage? He has a family. We’re going to have a baby and you don’t even care, do you? All you care about is getting him all for yourself and that brat!”
Mohinder barely restrained himself from slapping her, talking about Molly in that disgusted tone. He took a calming breath and commented coldly, “Generally, it’s the unfaithful who have the most difficulty in believing others to be true.”
Mrs. Parkman had no compunction about slapping Mohinder across the face.
Without warning, Molly was suddenly just there, screaming and jumping on Mrs. Parkman. It took Mohinder a few seconds to realize that the dynamo was Molly, but then he pulled her off the woman and strode a few steps away. He wrapped his arms around the surprisingly strong girl and held fast, murmuring soothing words to her and rocking her until she finally calmed down.
He was glad to see that Mrs. Parkman was gone when he at last turned around. Exhausted by the entire exchange, Mohinder nonetheless kept Molly in his arms as he walked back to the curb to catch a taxi back to the hotel.
Groaning softly, Mohinder turned to find one of the regular nurses from Matt’s floor standing there. Forcing a smile, he said, “I’m terribly sorry, but I really need to get Molly to bed. She’s overtired.”
“I just wanted to say that if you need a witness, you can feel free to call on me,” the young woman told him.
Surprised, Mohinder asked, “Why on earth would I need a witness?”
She offered a brief smile and pointed out, “Not everyone’s as nice as you and Officer Parkman, Dr. Suresh. Just keep me in mind. My name is Allison.”
“Well, thank you Allison, but I doubt it will be necessary,” Mohinder said. Thankfully, a cab arrived just then. He nodded and continued, “Thank you, again. Good bye.”
“Bye,” she replied.
He climbed into the cab and settled Molly across his lap while giving the driver the address. Traffic seemed to be on their side as it only took about fifteen minutes to get back to the hotel. He paid the man and awkwardly got out of the cab with Molly still clinging to him in her sleep. Only a few minutes later they were in their room and he carefully pried her hands from his jacket.
He managed to get her out of her coat and then her socks and shoes without waking her. Knowing that she would just wind up in his bed by morning anyhow, she hadn’t yet not, Mohinder simply took off his own shoes and socks before pulling the blankets over them both. He gently kissed her forehead and whispered, “Sweet dreams, Molly. Things will be better in the morning.”
Just as long as Mrs. Parkman stayed very, very far away.
* * * *
Mohinder woke in the middle of the night, thanks to going to sleep so early. He sighed and rubbed at his face before climbing carefully out of the bed. Molly remained asleep, so he bent to kiss her forehead before heading to the bathroom. He relished even the semblance of privacy after having so little for the last few days. As much as he loved Molly, it got to be a bit much not to have his own space.
He shuffled out of the bathroom at last and went to the laptop he’d salvaged from the Company’s lab. It would have been a lot less nerve wracking if Matt had been there to read the minds of whomever’s path they crossed, but no one even had even given him a second glance, perhaps used to him being in the building.
Or, per haps on order, Mohinder thought darkly.
For all he knew, they were being watched every minute of every day. There could be listening devices and video cameras implanted in their room and he would never know it. The Company could have let him retrieve his laptop and research so that he could continue and they could simply take it from him later.
Mohinder shook off the dark
thoughts as his laptop finished booting. He turned his attention to rereading
past material, immersing himself in the study of an unfamiliar subject; the
school districts of every borough in
By then it was not quite and he decided it wouldn’t go amiss to wake her up. They could have an early breakfast and make the rounds of a couple of apartments before visiting Matt.
Sitting on the bed, Mohinder smiled at the sight of Molly curled up against his pillow, hair draped over her face. He tenderly pushed it aside and then rubbed her back, saying, “Wake up, Molly, time to get up, sweetheart.”
She mumbled in her sleep, but didn’t really wake. He kept up the contact and verbal prodding until she finally did, rolling to look up at him with a yawn.
Smiling again, he greeted, “Well good morning, sleepyhead. Feeling better?”
Molly nodded and yawned again. “Morning, Mohinder.”
He kissed her forehead before telling her, “Time to get up and ready for the day. We have a busy day.”
She climbed out of bed and Mohinder cut up a banana for her cereal as well as apples for snacks later. They both got hungry fairly quickly. By the time that was done, she had finished her shower and called out for him to do her hair. Equipped with an appropriate hairbrush, and with Molly having a 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner now, the hair brushing went much more efficiently. Breakfast was accomplished in an equally efficient manner, accompanied by Molly’s eager conversation about where they were going, visiting Matt, saying hi to all the medical staff and pretty much anything else that came into her mind.
Mohinder let the chatter wash
over him like white noise, glad that she was back on an even keel. They were
out the door by eight, which left them two hours before it was time to go see
Matt. He had three places picked out in
When he saw the first one, he knew it was the right one. It was similar in dimension to the one his father had lived in, which gave him a sense of familiarity. The main difference was the extra bedroom and larger bathroom. There was a tub, not just a shower stall, and plenty of space for a little girl in the second bedroom to fill with little girl things.
Things he dearly wanted to give Molly.
As he watched her rush from room to room, calling out happy descriptions, Mohinder smiled and looked to the manager, Kelly, telling her, “We’ll take it. Cashier’s check I presume?”
Looking startled, the woman nodded and reminded, “First, last, and security.”
“Of course,” Mohinder agreed. “I’ll messenger it over to you this afternoon.”
Smiling, Kelly held out her hand and said, “Welcome to the building!”
He took her hand. “Thank you very much. Molly! Time to go!”
Molly skipped back out and gushed, “It’s so big! Do I get the big room, Mohinder?”
Chuckling, he ruffled her hair, contradicting, “You do not. Grown-ups get the big room.”
“So it’s Matt’s room then,” she teased.
Mohinder laughed outright at that, knowing she didn’t think of the implications in her statement, and scooped her into his arms, tickling her belly. As for Matt living with them, well, he would disillusion her later when their potential landlady wasn’t around to witness a tantrum. “Why you cheeky little thing!”
She giggled and squirmed until he finally released her.
Mohinder saw the frown on Kelly’s face and asked, “Is there a problem?”
“I didn’t realize, she isn’t your daughter? And who is Matt?”
A stark reminder that, technically, he had no claim on Molly whatsoever. Turning serious, he fudged, “Molly’s parents were killed earlier in the year. I’m her temporary guardian. Matt is, well, a good friend.”
Her eyebrows rose and she glanced at Molly, who was peering out the window at the neighborhood. Looking back at Mohinder, she hesitated before saying, “I don’t want to seem intrusive, but do you have papers saying you’re her guardian? No offense, but just because you say it’s so, doesn’t make it true.”
Mohinder sighed. “I don’t have any yet, no. It’s been…a difficult few months.”
“I don’t know…”
“Mohinder?” Molly asked, taking his hand. “Can we go? I want to visit Matt now. He saved my life, you know. He’s a policeman. The bad man was going to kill me and Matt stopped him, but he got shot by the bad man. And Mohinder’s taking care of me because the bad man killed my parents. So we need to visit Matt in the hospital.”
Kelly almost immediately softened, tsking softly under her breath. She looked at Mohinder and said, “I suppose it’s okay for now. I’ll just be keeping an eye on the two of you, making sure she’s okay. And get me a copy of those papers as soon as you have them.”
Simultaneously thankful that she wasn’t going to make a big deal of it and irritated that he had to explain himself, Mohinder forced a smile and simply replied, “Of course, thank you. Come on, Molly. Let’s go see Matt.”
Molly gave a little cheer and rushed to the door.
“Wait for me, if you please!” Mohinder called after her.
She heaved a sigh, but waited.
Kelly chuckled. “Well that convinced me. I’ll expect the cashier’s check end of the day.”
They shook hands and Mohinder left, taking Molly’s hand in his. They hadn’t been together for long, but he knew that he would be devastated if someone took her away. He resolved to talk to Matt about it as soon as possible.
* * * *
Matt woke sore and tired like he hadn’t since the day after his surgery. His entire body ached, but especially his chest. He drifted through the morning until he heard Molly’s cheerful voice from outside the room and Mohinder’s warm, deeper tone. He smiled, waking up a little more and reaching for the bed control with a wince. By the time they entered, he was sitting up and waiting for them.
“Matt!” Molly cried out happily, rushing to the bed.
He grunted in pain when she hugged him tight. Waving off Mohinder’s concerned look, he kissed Molly’s forehead and greeted, “Morning, Molly!”
“Matt, we have an apartment and there’s kids and a school nearby and the lady is really nice, but she almost didn’t let us have it ‘cause Mohinder’s not really my Daddy, but then she did ‘cause I told her about you saving me from the bad man and so when are you coming home?”
Matt blinked at the rapid flow of information, sorting it out on a time delay. “Ah, that’s up to the doctors, Molly, but I hope soon.”
“I doubt that,” Mohinder retorted, snippy. “Not if an argument sends you into cardiac arrest.”
Hiding a grin, Matt replied, “Hey, I’m a strong guy. I’ll be out of here in no time.”
Mohinder rolled his eyes when Matt flexed his biceps, but he thought he saw the other man’s gaze linger a bit. Grinning for real at that, Matt continued, “So where’s the apartment?”
Matt laughed and teased, “Well, it must be a good district, then.”
Mohinder made a face at him. “Laugh if you wish, but a solid foundation in all the arts and sciences is important to a well rounded life.”
Matt leaned down to stage-whisper to Molly, “He’s a nerd, isn’t he?”
She giggled and nodded.
“Thank you both so very much,” Mohinder said dryly.
Matt shifted Molly into a better position, i.e. one without her elbow in his gut, and replied, “C’mon, Mohinder, you know I’m kidding.”
Mohinder snorted and changed the subject with, “How are you feeling today?”
Allowing it, Matt answered, “Sore, but fine. I really think I’ll be out of here in no time.”
“That’s great,” Mohinder murmured.
There was something off about the response, but Matt let it slide. He had to, really, because Molly started talking about what they needed to buy for the apartment and the kids in the building and pretty much everything under the sun. Before he knew it, visiting hours were over and it was time for them to leave. He hadn’t spent the whole time listening and talking to Molly, though. Matt had taken surreptitious glances at Mohinder, noting how tired he looked, and how distracted he was. Whatever was going on in the other man’s head, it was a big deal.
Inspiration struck and he suggested, “Molly, why don’t you go to the nurses’ station and say hello to everyone?”
It was right across the hall, after all, so they could keep an eye on her.
She nodded eagerly and climbed off the bed.
Once Molly had left, Matt asked bluntly, “What’s wrong?”
Mohinder looked startled, but answered easily enough, “I can’t get guardianship of Molly. I’m not a legal citizen. You’ll have to take her, or she’ll wind up in foster care which is something neither of us wants, I’m sure.”
Molly in foster care didn’t even bear thinking about, but… “Mohinder, she might have other family out there. We have to look into blood relatives before we actively pursue legal guardianship. And supposing we don’t find anyone, who would give me custody? I’m separated, probably soon to be divorced, and a cop.”
“Doesn’t being a policeman work in your favor?” Mohinder questioned.
Matt snorted. “Oh, sure. Because long hours and carrying a gun for a living are really good things in a Dad.”
Mohinder sighed, scrubbing a hand through his curls as he replied, “Well we need to sort something out, or there will be trouble. What about when she needs to enroll in school? Or go to the doctor? God forbid, what if she needs a hospital?”
the other man was getting truly worked up though his voice remained low, Matt
ordered firmly, “Relax, Mohinder. Take a breath, okay? Look, I’ll call a
buddy of mine back in
Mohinder took his advice literally, breathing deeply for a minute before offering a brief smile and replying, “All right.”
As the other man stood, Matt said, “Hey, Mohinder?”
“Get some sleep, will you? You look like hell.”
Mohinder gave him a crooked smile that went right through Matt like nothing ever had before and replied, “I should be saying that to you.”
Swallowing against a tight throat, Matt said, “Seriously. Get an early night, okay? It’ll make me feel better.”
“I will,” Mohinder promised.
Matt asked, “So are you coming back for the afternoon hours?”
Hesitating, the other man replied, “I really should get things started for the apartment. I could drop Molly off here and then run errands.”
Nodding, Matt said, “Sounds good.”
Mohinder smiled briefly and called towards the door, “Come say good-bye, Molly!”
Not ten seconds later, Molly ran into the room and jumped on the bed, jostling Matt in an unpleasant way. The hug and kiss to his cheek more than made up for it though, and he squeezed her back, kissing her on the top of the head. “Have fun shopping. Make Mohinder spend a lot of money, okay?”
Molly chirped, “Sure!”
Mohinder protested at the same time, “Matthew! Please!”
Chuckling, Matt watched as the tall man collected Molly and the two of them left amidst good-byes and waves. It was far too quiet once they were gone and he sighed in disappointment. The mood only lasted until he remembered that he had people to call.
And while I’m at it, he thought, I need to talk to Jack about divorce proceedings. I wonder if I can get some of the diamonds back as a nest egg?