Fic: The Promise of Christmas Past (Heroes, gen)

Author’s Note: Written for a Heroes Christmas exchange. My prompt was the song, “Here Comes Santa Claus”. Set several years pre-series. Ages are estimated based on series canon and the actual ages of the actors. (Oh, and if you have a problem with adorable little kids, you’d probably better skip this one. 😉 )

“Is he here yet, is he here yet?”

Sixteen-year-old Nathan Petrelli awoke with a grunt as a four-year-old bundle of energy landed square on his chest. He blinked bleary eyes into the semi-darkness; even though it had to be the middle of the night, the lights of Manhattan still glowed through the curtains just enough that he could make out Peter’s form and, more indistinctly, also his face.

“What…what time is it?” The alarm clock, which he had to peer around his brother to see, displayed “1:42” in glowing red numbers. “Pete, have you been to sleep at all yet?”

Peter shook his little head, bowl-cut black hair flying around his eager face. “Nuh uh. Can’t sleep. Did Santa come yet?”

With a deep, long-suffering sigh, Nathan picked up his brother and set his feet on the floor before slowly sitting up in bed. He looked at the eager boy with a guarded but affectionate smile. “You’ve gotta go to sleep, Pete. You know how Santa ‘sees you when you’re sleeping’ and ‘knows when you’re awake’?: he’s not going to come until you’re asleep.”

Peter’s face visibly drooped. “But how’s he gonna find us, Nathan? And how’s he gonna get in? We don’t have a chimney.”

A part of him couldn’t help but smile at the innocent worry in his brother’s voice, but if there was one thing Nathan had promised himself when Peter was born, it was that he wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Not even how Santa was going to come down the nonexistent chimney in the family’s Manhattan penthouse or how he would find them when they weren’t at home in Long Island.

Picking Peter up, he balanced him on his hip. “Don’t you know Santa can find anyone in the world? He’s got a built-in radar or something.”

“In the sleigh?” Peter asked, awed.

Nathan shook his head. “Nah, in his head. If I was standing next to Santa right now and I asked him where my brother, Peter Petrelli was, he would tell me he was in an apartment in New York. Even if he’d never been here before in his life.”

He paused to open the door to his bedroom, but Peter was already voicing his next worry again: “But how will he get in without a chimney?”

“Well, think about it. Most chimneys are pretty narrow, right?” Nathan asked.

Peter nodded, wide-eyed.

“And Santa’s a pretty big guy.”

Another nod, this time accompanied by a giggle.

“Well, the way I figure it, Santa couldn’t go down chimneys at all if he was an ordinary man. So you know what I bet? I bet he can walk through solid objects. Like walls or fireplaces. That’s how he doesn’t need a key to get in.”

Peter’s already wide eyes bugged even bigger. “Wow! Like Shadowcat?”

Nathan’s smile widened. So, some good had come out of reading Peter his old X-Men comics after all. Mom had yelled at him, told him Peter was too young to understand and that Nathan shouldn’t fill his head with that kind of nonsense. She said he should learn to live in the real world, but personally, Nathan wished he’d been allowed to be a kid and believe in fantasy a little longer. No way was he going to help inflict the same Petrelli pragmatism on his brother before he was five.

“Yeah. Just like Shadowcat.”

“What else can he do?” Peter asked eagerly.

“Well…” Nathan had to think about it for a minute. Thank God he had started reading comics when he was only a little older than Peter, because now he had lots of ideas for the suddenly-almost-omnipotent Santa Claus. “He’s carrying that bag that has presents in it for all the children of the world, and I bet it’s pretty heavy. He must be pretty strong, like Superman. And not every home in the world has a big roof where he can land the sleigh with all the reindeer, so I bet he just parks them on one roof and then flies to all the other houses in the area.”

Peter’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “Santa can fly?”

Nathan nodded. Mom would probably scold him again for the tale he was weaving, but for now it was enough just to see Peter’s eyes light up like that. “And if you think about it, he’s been delivering presents for a long time, so I bet he’s immortal too.”

“What’s immortal?”

“It means he can’t die,” Nathan explained. “That he could live forever.”

“You mean forever’n ever’n ever?” Peter asked excitedly.

Nathan laughed. “Yeah. Forever and ever and ever.”

“I want to stay up and see Santa,” Peter pouted. “If I’m pretending to sleep, won’t he come then?”

“Are you kidding?” Nathan said, giving his brother his most convincing look of disbelief. “Santa can read your mind–how do you think he always knows which present on your list you want the most? If he comes around and you’re not dreaming, he’ll know.”

This time it was Peter’s turn to let out a deep sigh in imitation of his brother. “Okay, I’ll go to bed. But if you see him, Nathan, promise you’ll say thank you for me?”

Now didn’t that just figure: most kids wanted to stay up to see Santa so they could catch him leaving their presents. Peter wanted to thank him. Nathan just smiled again. “You bet I will.”

They’d reached Peter’s bedroom by this time, so Nathan opened the door and walked them in, stopping only to turn on the light. He lay Peter down gently in his small bed with its Superman bed sheets then pulled the covers up to his brother’s chin and sat down on the bed beside him.

“Nathan?” Peter asked next.

“Yeah, Pete?”

“The world is pretty big, right?” He sounded worried again.

Nathan nodded. “Yeah, it is.”

“So how does Santa give presents to all the kids in the world in just one night? Does he hafta skip some because he runs out of time?”

“No, of course he doesn’t,” Nathan promised. “Because you see, that’s something else Santa can do. He can stop time, so that when he lands at our house, everywhere in the world time will just stop until he unloads all the presents and goes on his way.”

“And what does Santa do if he forgets somebody?”

“Santa?” Nathan made an affectionate scoffing sound. “Santa never forgets anything or anyone. And even if he did, he won’t forget you, I promise.”

Relaxing at last, Peter snuggled down deeper into his covers. Nathan smiled, leaning down to give his brother a kiss on the forehead before standing and heading back towards the door.

“Nathan?” Peter asked sleepily just as he reached it.

Nathan turned back. “Yeah?”

“When I grow up, can I be Santa and do all those things?”

Nathan laughed softly as he reached out with one hand to turn out the light. “You can be anything you want, Pete.”

As he closed the door, he made another silent promise to himself: I’ll make sure of it.

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