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[personal profile] black_hat
Pairing: Adam/Claire
Prompt: After Sylar's attack, Claire goes to Adam for answers
Warning: Unbeta'd and part of a longer fic.

http://cross-rubicon.livejournal.com/59208.html#cutid1



Claire felt like a ball inside a pinball machine.

She remained alert, watching his sleeping figure on the floor. The guy had actually gone to sleep while she was awake, waiting for daylight to take him straight to the airport. She was tense, and just like walking through fire, she was going to keep going. She couldn’t stop now.

Inside, she was in emotional turmoil. She’d have to say that any physical pain paled in comparison to what she was feeling inside. Claire could someday be on the other side of the glass, in a cage, and the world was a ticking time bomb that was about to go off around her ears. Someday.

But for now, she’d get the job done. Maybe when she made it home, she’d call Peter to help her get Adam into much more humane conditions. She could even watch Adam personally. She’d make this work. However, some part of her was bitter about Peter’s cool dismal of her before, when she had nearly been crying in front of him.

Besides, where was Adam going to go? If he didn't take his revenge...

She’d steel herself and get this job done (alone, on her own two feet) and then she’d ask the right questions. She could already see scenes happening in her mind. She had some advantages too. She knew this power very well. She had survived Sylar and was still standing, intact, so nothing that happened next would even compare.

She also knew what Adam had truly been after by breaking her phone.

Her dad had placed a tracking device in her phone. Meredith had shown her before they had left. Oh yeah apparently even Meredith worked for the Company at one point. Anyway, sliding the device out of the phone, you just simply switched it off manually then. It was small and fragile, and she imagined when he made sure to smash it, he thought he was covering his tracks.

She had the small chip in the pocket of her jacket. All she had to do was switch it back on and slip it in his jacket. It’d follow him pretty far if he got away from her.

This knowledge gave her a sense of power.

Claire began to prepare for how to subdue him. She could copy his trick of keeping a rope or her belt around his neck. She wanted to shudder but this was run of the mill stuff for her now. She stepped quietly to the table where the glassware was and picked up a delicate looking wine glass. She broke it, picking up a shard of glass for a swift cutoff in that spot, and Adam jerked awake, blinking at her.

He sighed and laid back down. “Five more minutes.”

“Get up,” she said, not in the mood.

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

"I'm trying to do the right thing," she told him, serious. Sincere. He looked up at her, read her look, his eyes thoughtful.

He got to his feet, somehow still looking together and collected in his…what, power suit. It was pretty strange to be honest, to think of someone that old wearing something new like a mask.

“I want to look my best for when I’m experimented on relentlessly and without mercy,” he said, cheerfully, reading her thoughts somehow. She must be transparent. She steeled herself that much more.

“Then don’t form an organization that experiments on people relentlessly and without mercy?” Claire suggested.

“I’ll take it under consideration next time.”

She stared at him, her expression neutral and willing to wait as long as this took.

Claire thought he’d be….tough to get out the door and down the road. She knew he wouldn’t cough up the location of the rental car, so she didn’t bother to ask. However, in all other ways, Adam didn’t try and run away from her. In fact, when she fell behind because her legs were shorter than his, he waited or would walk back to join her.

The more she dragged her feet, the more he waited.

“Is this a keeping your enemies closer tactic?” Claire asked.

“Are you an enemy?” he asked, sounding surprised.

“Against what you stand for, yeah,” Claire said. “It’s completely disconnected.”

She wanted to shudder because since this began, she had felt disconnected from everyone. Peter was the last safe place, but then, even he, just now…like trying to get through a wall.

“Or too connected,” he wheddled, volleyed, sparred. She clenched her teeth. Luck she could re-grow them. “Ah, I’ve disappointed you. But I notice that you don’t say to be an enemy of mine, just my brand of thinking.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you aren’t trying a little harder to get away?”

“Why would I? You seem, based on your nature, like a good girl who wouldn’t want any real harm to come to me. Upon your ability alone, I don’t think you could really…help yourself about being helpful.”

“You must get tired of being so wrong all the time,” she said, about to spit nails. To imply she had no choice, yet again, was a huge mistake. Huge.

“Then you want to see me maimed?”

“I don’t want to see you, period, after this is done. Never again. I’ll be going back to my life.” Sure, she had planned on watching him herself to help….but he couldn’t just…she could do whatever…she wished she could make little grooves in her arms with her nails about now because she was about to scream.

Her statement seemed to actually surprise him a little, and then he, in what seemed to be his M.O., was unmoved and then…moved on to other subjects. Any compassion she would give him wouldn’t make a dent anyway, she figured, because he was just as closed off as...

“Claire, we are responsible for each other now,” he said softly, although his eyes were intense. He said it as if it was a fact written in stone, something she’d instinctively know. “You must…you should try and remember that I’m of this opinion and that will never change. Regardless of what you do.”

Claire had nothing to say. She felt like the worse person here, ironically, and the intensity which he…pledged…was unnerving. She didn’t want that.

Adam began to talk about just about…anything and everything as they moved closer to the city. Claire imagined her existence wouldn’t have been pain-free for long if she stayed with him because hello, someone communicates a lot.

Randomly, he talked about the concept of Shintoism, something he had been introduced to in Japan a long time ago in his travels. Claire couldn’t get behind the idea at all. A rock was a rock to her. To him, most things held potential. She didn’t care about talking as much as he did because she didn’t need to, and she shouldn’t even be listening because she was all twisted up inside.

He told her about why he had come here, how he had learned how to wield a sword. The name he had chosen: Sword Saint.

She made a face.

“Sounds quite regal, doesn’t it?”

“Sounds like a videogame knock off.”

“In before videogames, mind you. I was going for ‘hopeful with a bit of mystery thrown in’. I wanted to give them hope, first.”

“Did not,” she said, unable to help herself from being cutting.

“Oh I did want them to feel hopeful. How else could I have been allowed among them?”

“Or?” she prompted. “There’s an ‘or’ to this, I know it.”

“All right then. Money. You know, currency,” he said, without much shame.

“Well, that’s awkward.” She hadn’t expected an actual response, she was just needling him.

“You can’t help people by being poor.”

“Excuse you, ever read the Bible?”

“Excuse you,” he retorted, “Ever hear of the carpentry trade?”

“Ever hear of a hobby and time management?” she threw back.

“What does time management have to do with anything?”

“He was way too busy to really be a carpenter. And no one charged uh, Him anything anyway after awhile.”

“Then our Savior would have been committing highway robbery?”

She scoffed. Then she knew what he was going to do, and then he actually did do it.

“If anything, I would consider Him one of us.” She looked at him. He seemed to be kidding. Was he kidding?

“Careful,” Claire chided. “You’re God-Complex is showing a little.”

“Only a little? Huh.”

Okay, so she laughed.

“Do you really not care if I’m maimed?”

“I do, but I don’t think you care if I do.”

“This is true,” Adam said.

She sighed. “We’ll work something out. Something that holds you back, yeah, but something better.”

He looked smug.

“Only because I think it’s the right thing to do,” she added.

“Yes, yes.”

Claire was being baited but she didn’t have to really answer that. She wasn’t going to play a constant game or have something to prove every second. Let him have it, it didn’t matter.

She smiled at him instead and kept moving, determined to pay attention when they hit the more crowded areas of the city. She heard the noise and though she knew he’d stay close for whatever reason, she wasn’t going to be caught off guard this time.

It was so crowded but she knew no one else has this kind of burden on them as of right now. Adam looked completely at home, and every now and then he stare at her, as if waiting for something.

She, however, suddenly noticed something weird across the street.

“Hey. Does that happen often in Japan?” She motioned to newspapers flying every which way…when there was no breeze at all.

He looked over as well and then grabbed her shoulder. She reacted, bringing her fist up quickly in a threat.

“Oh stop.” He grabbed her fist quite easily and herded her along the walkway. “Now’s not the time. I’m in danger.”

“What?”

“Or you’re in danger. One of us or both.”

“From air?”

“From a person moving at superhuman speed. There, they’re by the corner now.”

Sure enough, there was a street sign moving slightly while everything else was still.

“Uh-huh,” she said, doubtful.

“Anyone could be working with the man who buried me alive.”

“Or trying to capture you for the Company, which…I should wave them over.” This was more just a jab. She wanted to bring him in herself.

“I’m supposed to go on that leap of faith? Do you think you could find me again if he hides me in a vault? If the Company itself sticks me in a hole?”

No she wouldn’t. “Listen-.”

“Are you going to help me or not?” he demanded.

That jarred her into action. “Of course, what else could I do?” she demanded, without any irony at all before she realized the irony inherent.

He looked entirely too smug about that so, she added, “But if you’re tricking me with floating newspapers, you could move me up to a personal enemy.”

He smiled and tightened his grip on her arm. “Noted. Now keep moving.”

When was she going to have a chance to bug him? She still suspected he was leading her down to one of the underground subway systems to push her onto a track or something.

“Try and get a look at them. See the city as a spatial grid. There can only be so many places they can physically be, considering people and objects in the way. Those who travel at high speeds are vulnerable to being tripped up by the most inconsequential things. A child with marbles could take one down, if they were prepared.”

“That’s your defense?” Claire asked doubtfully.

“Just try and look at a place before they stop.”

Claire decided to go with it and look at each corner that didn’t have a lot of people gathered there. She caught a glimpse of a blonde girl before…she wasn’t there.

“I think the Roadrunner is a blonde, pixie-looking girl.”

“She probably has some muscle with her. We’re going to have to split up.”

“What a sudden and expected turn of events.”

“Claire.”

“And then I wait and come after you,” she confirmed. “I ambush them.” She considered what he might be thinking. “I will come through for you.”

“I hope so. I am counting on you, you know.”

And with those gentle words…he pushed her down. Into what appeared to be an old-style fish market. Surely this was just for affect.

She laid there for a minute, embarrassed and smiling awkwardly, and then hurried to her feet. Wiping the front of her shirt off, she spotted the muscle. Who had a lot of muscles. He was following Adam with deadly concentration and focus. He did have something up his sleeve.

Oh my god. She followed as closely as she could without getting his attention but something told her that the guy hadn’t been planning to notice her anyway. She could use this to her advantage because what if they just killed Adam by popping his head off?

This guy could do just that. She could not, would not let that happen, even with as big a problem as Adam was.

She crept along the walls of the building, seeing them disappear into an alley. There was this huge yelp. Not exactly the best sign. She peered around the corner to see Adam being held up by his neck.

Yeah, very close to skull-detaching-from-shoulders territory.

“I’m not familiar…with either of you.”

Claire saw the blonde at the end of the alley, and the girl looked tense, nervous.

“Won’t be around much longer to be familiar to anyone,” the muscle said. Okay, that cleared up the intent. Now, it wasn’t a question of if she was going to stop them, it was how. She didn’t think she could take them, and calling attention would just get an innocent person hurt.

Claire looked up at the building and saw the metal fire escape in the next alley over. The building wasn’t as big as the one in New York. She climbed up the steps without making too much noise. Her heart began to beat rapidly, like it always did when she was under fire, and all she could do was follow through.

Seeing that man act so aggressive and evil just reminded her of Sylar, and people like Sylar were about to know that she wasn’t helpless.

Claire reached the top and looked down. They were still there. She knew if she thought this through, her actions might change, but she couldn’t afford for it to happen for someone else’s sake.

So, she jumped.

Her knee hit the muscle in the face. He screamed out while she was perfectly fine. She should feel worse about it, but strangely and horrifyingly enough, she doesn’t. Instead it’s a sick triumph, and the worst feeling right now was the only real feeling.

Muscle appeared to be unconscious.

“Run!” she yelled to Monroe.

She didn’t have to tell him twice. She didn’t even have to tell him once. He was already running out of the alley and into the street where a crowd was. Great. She felt a bit of disdain (or a whole lot) but the blonde girl was getting ready to move after him.

Claire ran to get in front of her. Obviously it wouldn’t work for long. The blonde was sizing her up, kind of smirking…but Claire kept in mind what Adam had said.

She kicked the trashcan in the alley over, spilling cans and cups everywhere just as she was pushed backwards by this burst of speed. There was a frightened gasp, like, a nanosecond later, and the girl hit the wall, struggling not to break a leg with some fear.

That should hold them.

Claire jumped over the small barrier and hurried to get some space in between them.

Someone grabbed her arm and yanked her back. She heard a sick crack but naturally—she had to look for the source of the sound. Her arm was broken, and Muscle wasn’t as out as she had thought.

“Running away, little girl?”

His black shirt. The look in his eyes. He squeezed tighter on her arm, and she could see some of the bone sticking up through the weird way the fabric was pulling around her arm. She could cry for help or use his surprise at how she wasn’t in pain to twist away.

Only was in two places at once: and they both thought they could hurt her and walk away without a care.

“You wish,” she said with a smile.

She punched him in the face. Or rather she punched in the direction of his face and hit his shoulder. Height difference.

He didn’t seem to care, so she kneed him. That made him almost fall in pain, but before she could twist away to do more damage, she was picked up and now was the one against the wall.

Again. By a very angry wounded guy. She was the one who was going to have her head on the ground. She didn’t know exactly how she felt, except she kept the grin on her face while deep inside, she was sick with fear.

“Knox, she’s not important. You don’t have to do that to her,” the blonde protested. “I can find the regenerator guy again.”

“Petrelli wanted him now.” Knox spoke with some hint of fear.

“Petrelli?” Claire asked, surprised. “Which one, Angela?”

“Dude’s name is Arthur.”

Her bio-grandfather who wasn’t dead. “What does he want with Adam?”

Knox looked at her with some respect. She guessed most people were begging right now.

“He’s half dead, that would be why.”

“Oh…” She had her own mixed feelings about the Petrelli. She’d never forget listening to Nathan tell Meredith that he didn’t want to meet her. But… “You don’t have to capture Adam for that. I’m a regenerator too. See, my arm is healed.”

The look on their faces weren’t too good for respective reasons. Daphne looked upset while Knox was happy. Knox let her down.

“Do you know what you’ve gotten yourself into?”

“What’s your name?” Claire asked the blonde who looked surprised. She wasn’t going to deal with Knox anymore.

“Daphne.”

“I’m Claire. Now what am I getting myself into to.”

“He takes your power away. When he touches you, it’s just…gone,” Daphne said, suppressing a shudder.

“That’s his ability? He’s a power thief? That fits for the family.” Peter excluded, of course.

“Look,” Daphne said. “Help us find Adam. I’ve heard enough about him,” Daphne said. “It’s better if he’s…you know.”

“Made normal? Though good luck with that, ability or not.”

“Dead,” Knox said bluntly. “Boss said he’d dust him. Literally.”

“Right, that makes absolutely no sense.”

“He mentioned something about age,” Daphne said, looking nervous all over again. “Not that I try to listen to him that often.”

“…But even if that doesn’t happen, he would just die eventually,” Claire said.

“Aren’t you bright?” Knox commented, but Claire tuned him out. This was huge. She could hardly breath.

A very small part of her (a miniscule part like the size of an atom) knew it was a shaky idea. Who would watch Adam, and who would stop Sylar?

Peter, then. Peter could do all of that, and she could have her normal life. There was nothing wrong with…there was nothing wrong with this.

But she would die. Finally get sick. There was a hesitation but it, too, was akin to pressing against the edge of a blade. She needed pain more than Adam, maybe deserved it because she could take it way more than he could.

Now that she had the option…there was death but not for a while yet. She had to do it. This, too, was so much bigger than her, and she knew she’d never be really happy until she got to choose her own destiny.

She need this, and would have it no matter what. No matter what the future held, she had to for herself.

For herself.

“You don’t want to kill anyone, not like that,” she told Daphne, and Daphne looked away. “You don’t have to. I’ll survive. I’m still in high school, so I’m not going to end up being vacuumed off the floor.”

“You’re crazy,” Knox said.

“Maybe. But Adam’s in hiding by now. I’m all you’ve got.”

Daphne looked ill but her eyes held resignation.

“Hold on tight.”

***

Her grandfather looked awful.

Was awful. Claire followed behind a nervous Daphne and was shocked to see the wires and the monitors and his neck brace. He was confined to the bed. His dark eyes seemed numb: she could get a glimpse of Nathan in his face.

Daphne gasped as she was pushed backwards. “She-.”

“I’m like Adam. I can heal,” Claire said quickly, stepping in front of Daphne. “She told me about your problem when she caught me. And…I don’t want it anymore.”

Arthur lifted his hand to her and she walked over, knowing it was terrible. That he was in a terrible condition, and all that was really there was serpentine instinct. Claire took up a scalpel and cut herself deeply, let him watch her heal. She didn’t know what she really expected. She was in free fall.

But at least this time she was doing a good thing.

She let him take her hand and his skin felt heavy, hot. Then something that had been a part of her since forever was ripped from her. She gasped and struggled, and he let her fall.

Breathing heavily, Claire punched the sensitive skin of her arm. A sharp, bolt of pain. Of pain. She wanted to cry in relief. It was over. She had ended it herself.

Her grandfather tore the needles out of his arm, and Claire stepped back, wary. Arthur studied her, traces of illness already fading rapidly out of his cheeks. Arthur and Nathan were hard-looking men, with hard features like a barbed wire wall, but his look softened a bit.

She didn’t want to say ‘hi, I’m your illegitimate granddaughter’ or anything, but somehow he knew.

“Claire, isn’t it?”

She nodded, feeling awkward and shy all of the sudden.

“I can reasonably say that you’re the best thing my son ever did with his life.”

“No,” Claire said, getting to her feet. “He gave his life trying to do the right thing. More than once. I wanted to do the same.”

Arthur nodded curtly and took her hand again, squeezing it reassuringly. The warning twinges of discomfort in her knees went unnoticed as she was lost in feeling apart. Relieved. Counted.

But within five hours, she was burning up with fever and within six, was drifting in and out of consciousness. At that point, she woke to find herself asleep in a small room, her energy level having dropped like a stone. In the morning, when Daphne came to get her for breakfast, she could hardly lift her head.

“Wow. You don’t look so good,” Daphne observed. “I don’t think…he should see you like this.”

Claire was inclined to agree.

“Can you just drop me off at my house? I want to go home now.”

Daphne looked down. “I’m thinking you’re going to be here for awhile.”

“Why?” Claire rasped, her throat beginning to feel bloody. “We’re done here. He’s taken what he wanted from me. I need to see my family.”

“I’ll go get you some blankets.”

There were none.

Claire was in big trouble. Soon, she found out how much trouble.

***

Her hearing was the first to go. It was strange. She was shivering under the blankets, with Daphne doing the worst impression of a mother hen ever for the past few weeks, when Daphne’s voice just cut off.

Puzzled, Claire held up her hands to her ears. She snapped her fingers and didn’t hear a thing.

Daphne mouthed at her, her features growing concerned. Oh god, her heart hurt too.

“I-.” Her own voice boomed in her head, a scratched record. Couldn't hear.

Daphne merely stared her, holding up a hand for a moment and then letting it settle back down on her lap.

“Can you…” She couldn’t really ask for Arthur directly. Daphne seemed to understand and went in her place. But he never came.

Her sight went next, over two days, as Daphne was more and more pastel until she was just part of a dark room. She was too weak to move. Her mind drifted, and Claire had never been more afraid in her life.

She could feel the shots she was being injected with: Daphne had mentioned hardcore antibiotics…and she could hardly hold down her food from it. She could die. Or worse, she could not. They’d keep her alive with the best of medicine while she was getting ot the point where the feel of clothes hurt her. Every breath she took hurt. Her dreams were nightmares, and she fell further and further back in chills, her thoughts a whirling top with razor blades attached.

Her worst fear: all alone. She endured it.

Hands reached out for her, tracing her forehead, and she screamed soundlessly. Eyes in the dark watching her as she curled up into a ball, being as still as she could. Helpless and alone and forgotten. It was kind of like being buried alive, come to think about it and she had lots of time to think about it.

Someone would bathe her. Or try to. From the hands, she thought the person was female, hopefully Daphne who would try and let her know by touching her cheek lightly, keeping her in her old clothes…but her mind couldn’t really accept it.

She couldn’t feel gratitude, and wouldn’t feel gratitude. She felt like she’d lose something in the process.

One night, during the space in time, she thought she dreamed of an Indian boy whispering a question, whispering ‘do you want help? He’s asking’, and she naturally wanted to say ‘yes’. A resounding ‘yes get me the hell out of here’.

But Claire didn’t. Instead she said no. A resounding ‘no, he’ll just kill you. Just…stay away.’

She only dreamed it once.

She had the tracker in her pocket. She had her hand over it as a safety blanket, but she couldn’t bring her father into this death trap. She’d have to tough it out.

Claire had no idea how long it was, being so sick. She felt so horrible for wishing for her immortality back. She tried focusing on the memory of herself as a kid. She had been happy then, and probably had had no right to be. She didn’t know. Not anymore. The whole superpowers thing could have been a dream. It didn’t make sense: people and superpowers, it didn’t make sense for a life to go completely off the rails when you played by most of the rules. It made sense for her to have always been born with glass underneath her skin and to dream of no pain.

It became a way of being, and after awhile, she stopped being anything.

***

Claire was on the edge of death and then it happened. She was dead for a longer time: she knew by how hard it was to come out of it.

When the darkness cleared, she was confronted by an unpleasant sight. All these people were crowded around her, looking at her as if the world hinged on her survival. Her first instinct was to cry or hide, but her surprise overruled any other emotion.


Adam Monroe was by her bedside, a syringe in his hand with his sleeve rolled up.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” he said. The confusion about what was going on nearly made her sick again, and she wished someone would give her a clue to help her out. To her horror, Arthur and Knox were also in the small cell.

“What’s going on?” she whispered at Adam, unwilling to look Arthur in the face.

“We caught him outside, hiding in the bushes,” Knox said, and she thought she was the only one to catch the dark look on his face before he returned to his amiable expression.

“What do you know? You are still useful,” Arthur said, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Keep her alive. If she dies, you won’t be far behind.”

“I will honor the deal,” Adam said simply. And Arthur was gone. And Claire was still clueless.

He smiled, a little lifelessly, then studied her fully. “You look horrible.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, steeling herself. “Sorry, I’d cover my face in shame if I had a blanket.”

He took off his jacket, and she was amazed for a second at his callousness before he placed the jacket over her body, tucking it around her like a makeshift blanket. “There, that should be better.”

“Why are you here?” she asked, shocked by this gesture.

“This place used to be closed down. It still has a few equipment and files, and I imagined that the computer system was still being updated through the grid. Apparently rumors of Arthur’s death and all that. For people who were able to die, no one seems to. Of all ironies.”

“So, you…got caught by accident.”

She was disappointed. Her dream must have been a hallucination. Adam was quiet, and she turned away, back towards him.

“How was the family reunion, Petrelli?” he asked her back.

“Life-sucking.”

“Then this is the epitome of the perfect family. The metaphor being a literal one.”

She shrugged off his jacket.

“Claire,” he said. “I know this concept must be foreign to you, but you are my responsibility directly at the moment. I have to keep you alive.”

Only…he had told her that before…she turned back, studying him. He put the jacket back off her.

Huh. But she didn’t trust this entirely.

“Just don’t talk to me,” she informed him, keeping her voice cutting and not having to try that hard.

“Gladly. And I’m to assume you’ll return the favor?”

“What you are doing right now? Is commonly referred to as talking.”

He glowered at her and went to look out through the small barred window.

***

Claire didn’t have to ask why Arthur wasn’t down here keeping her alive.

She’d crash after every four hours. Arthur wouldn’t spend the time to do it. Claire was trying to be quiet about the pain. She didn’t want…to think much about anything. He paced, here and there, but was quiet himself.

She didn’t really want to…bring him down further. She felt like it was her fault he was here. Adam kept up the time of every four hours. He didn’t deny a single second, and she was taken aback. That wasn’t part of her expectations.

She wasn’t going to say a word. She was just going to endure, trying not to even cough. A lost cause but she tried. And he really didn’t say a word either.

Like clockwork, she was injected. Sometimes she felt like fighting it, she felt like fighting everything. She wanted to be quiet. She really wasn't a talker after awhile, but he kept making quips before remembering he shouldn't be talking.

So, she thought she'd talk back, to be supportive.

“Are you okay?” she asked him.

“Never been better. And you?” with a hint of sardonic humor. She needed to diffuse this...and get something off of her chest.

“I feel stupid. And sorry.”

“Are you feeling the things about the same subject? Or entirely different ones? Your range at finding things to be upset about is proving to be impressive.”

She could not cry. Wouldn’t. She closed her eyes.

“The same subject. But I know you’ll probably just tell me I was wrong about seeing being around forever as a bad thing and that I deserve what I got, powerless. And you’d be right.”

“More like the first time I’d be wrong. Therefore, I’m glad I won’t tell you any of that nonsense.”

She opened one eye cautiously. “What will you be…uh, telling me?”

He paused, suddenly cautious himself. He patted her arm noncommittally.

“When will you be telling me?” she asked.

“I’m tempted to keep up the mystery to keep us entertained. We’ll be in here for a bit. But it’s very simple. I can understand this power not being all roses at first.”

That was it. He had been in Japan awhile because that was a haiku. She didn’t really deserve more, and if that’s what he needed to get through it…especially now, that he was alone again.

Claire wished he’d flay her with his words, just cut her up. She almost hated that he didn’t, but she hated herself for the ‘almost’ existing in the first place.

It also wasn’t exactly a fair thought. She was torn. It didn’t stop her feelings but she had been wondering…in the back of her mind, if she wouldn’t have to stop him herself someday if she couldn’t guard him or hold him back.

Stop him. What else could that entail? The risk of him being around her was so high, and he had remained with her by choice.

She could understand the edge, the push to see just what one could take.

Maybe there was a lot more need here than just a casual encounter. She wouldn’t know now.

She…didn’t want to think about that, and as she was now, wouldn’t have to. But what kind of person was she to drop the ball like this on a whole population? She put it all on Peter. What kind of person was this terrible?

“I blamed Satan at first,’ he said.

“What, I…excuse me?” She was completely shocked but that didn’t mean she’d make him feel bad about it. “Well, you know what, that’s okay. If I had really thought about it, maybe I’d blame Satan too.”

“Not really. I was just getting your attention.”

She laughed, though it hurt to laugh. “That worked. But…there isn’t any word or term or…idea…idea that can really define this or explain it when it happens.”

“What were you thinking when it happened?”

“I…was just going to keep pushing until the end. I kept trying to see where it’d stop because all the…there was nothing to lose. You know how that is?”

“I do.”

“I even filmed it.”

“You what?”

‘It gets better. With someone else there.”

“You must have been holding something over their head, or otherwise…that’d be reckless.”

“I wasn’t holding anything over his head.”

“Giving up control can be a way of having it even more.”

“What control? That’s what this whole thing is, uncontrollable. With a normal life, I’d have that, some semblance of it,” she raved. “But no, someone can come in and hold you against a wall and you have to take it because that’s all you are.”

He stared at her, and she realized she had said too much.

Couldn’t control her emotions, what happened to her body, her fear, or people coming to hurt her. What was there but hiding under a rock? Wanting control wasn’t wrong. He took her hand, and she saw something familiar in his face. Some understanding that she didn’t want.

“Your nails.”

“What about them? Does the color pink offend you?” She realized she had lost her demure approach that she had had a second ago.

He touched the collar of his suit gently. “You kept them up. I have things I keep up as well.”

She was taken back. It was like being dosed with ice water.

“Inhumanity can mean that you are better than human, if that’s what you’re so …caught on. You could be better. Every living thing on earth struggles. Living, life is hard. But how you succeed is what makes you stand out. For your temperament, however, I wouldn’t think in terms of any definitions. If anything, you should accept your own limitations and work around them.”

“I’m scared to ask, but what would my temperament be?

He smiled. “Torn between your two natures. I find it interesting that you are of such pure blood—if we are using terms here—and grew up in a fairly mundane family of absolute mortals. No wonder you’re torn.”

“I’m really trying not to be a Petrelli. I don’t respect them, so there’s no conflict.”

“I’m merely pointing out you have a connection to both worlds that is particularly pronounced. Being a bridge is not a bad thing…and remember, you came to find me on your own. Most—special or not—wouldn’t have.”

“And that says what about me?” she wanted to know.

“That you could be something new. Whether that is a threat or not…time will tell. I should mention I enjoy a good challenge.”

“I’m no threat to you, Adam.”

“Not anymore. That’s a shame.”

She was never a threat, was what she had meant.

“Thanks for the jacket,” she said lightly, and tried to pretend to be asleep.


***

Claire remained quiet except…now that she couldn’t really help, she wanted to help him.

Because this was half her fault. Or all her fault. She guessed guilt wasn’t like a cooking recipe. Maybe she should try talking to him a little more kindly. Key word being try.

“What did you do?”

“Standing,” he said. “A minute ago I was sitting down.”

“No, like…your job?”

He made a face at her in the gloom.

“You mean you didn’t work a day in your life. That’s so.”

“Clever?”

“Lazy. You must think jobs are evil too. In that, you’d share a lot of company.”

“Most jobs are trivial and pointless, and yes, do hold a sense of crookedness.”

“Not everything. A veterinarian wouldn’t be crooked, right?”

“I’ve heard of practices-.” He stopped at her expression. “Which I am sure are entirely false. I did have an occupation.”

“Shoemaker. I always hear that in the movies.”

“Make a serious guess.”

“You said you were a samurai once, and if that’s true, then….hmm. Soldier?”

“Mercenary to be more specific.”

Way to kill people. If she looked at it through a certain lens, she could see it, especially if he was protecting someone, but she didn’t think he was. Like ever. And it just wasn’t even fair. Sure, back then times were bloodier or something, and having a sword aimed at your neck was uh…a chance but…there were real people involved in his fight.

She couldn’t condemn him and she hated him for that.

“Go on. Say it,” he urged. “I’m curious to see your defense. They were trying to kill me. My ability doesn’t change the fact of that matter in all those pointless wars. Nor would it change the fact that I saved lives by taking a blade for those who could die.”

“I actually wanted to ask what were you before your power manifested?” she went on.

“Are you meaning to imply that my being a samurai before is hard to believe?”

“…What, where did that come from?” she asked. “No, I was just wondering if there was a change between your earlier self and old self? Wait, that phrasing might be wrong, considering if you think the old self is actually the new self due to age.”

“…I think I understand your question.”

“I was a cheerleader,” she offered, with a smile.

“As in a cheerful person.” He laughed, and she didn’t really mind or care. She shrugged, even with how much she was bruised, not holding back at all.

“I know. I get it.”

“I had to. Mercy killing and the like.”

“Wonderful thing for you to joke about…but I have to admit, it was a good line. But don’t go thinking it’s too funny now.”

“I was a samurai before the power. By name at least. I was in charge of protecting a village from a murderous feudal lord.”

“That’s pretty heroic,” Claire said.

“I suppose it is.”

He didn’t really seem to think so. She wondered what was so wrong. If death was meaningless, then sometimes other things could get to be that way?

“It definitely is. And you said you did some good with the Company, helping with natural disasters and everything. That is amazing.”

“I’m proud of the work the Company did.”

“I think—if it was good-.”

“By your tremulous definition.”

“Okay, so a little judgmental but I have a right to be.”

“I like that. Continue.”

“It might be better than chopping people up with a sword because it’s more universal and practical. It’s more of a group thing.”

“My first approach to the murderous feudal lord was just that.” And suddenly he was all pleased again. Claire thought about asking him more personal questions, only she knew she’d hate that if it wasn’t up for grabs. And he’d be more human to her which…yeah.

Kind of tortuous.

But there was a complete mood change. He got up from the floor and sat beside her on the bench.

“I wasn’t quite alone when I found out I had a power. There was someone with a power there too.”

“That wouldn’t be so bad. You could work together in the saving people business.”

“He lied to me.”

Oh.

“About?”

“Everything. He read the stories about me and came back in time to make it happen.”

“…What?” she gasped, horrified. “Who gave him the right to do that?”

“He gave himself the right. When you see the kind of damage a power can do…you start to see things differently. A little more in the sense of the big picture.”

“I’m going to be honest. I don’t know whether to believe you or not.”

“That’s fair. I know you only have certain expectations of me that are engraved in your mind despite what I may say or do.”

He seemed to actually need her to believe him, so…she went with it because they were in a bad place.

“Well. It might be too crazy a story to make up. That seems like someone’s obsessed if they’d go back in time and manipulate history. I mean, he was a time-traveler. Huh, that’s…interesting with our power. He could stop by any time.”

“He could play god, yes.”

“Maybe—oh that’s crazy.”

“What’s crazy?” he asked, sunny again.

Immortality was still just a concept to her. She hadn’t gone through it yet. …and never was. So she’d ask. “If you could live forever, you could meet him as a kid. Just to freak him out.”

“What you’re really saying is: give him a taste of his own medicine.”

She laughed. “You’d have to admit it’d be ironic. But you didn’t…did you?”

He looked at her, without any real emotion. Just calm.

“So, you…kicked sand in his face while he was a kid or…what? What did you do?”

“What would you have done, in my situation?”

“Not what I’m asking.”

“Nothing, really. I’m not a foolish or impatient man. I didn’t interfere with the course of history. The lesson itself was vital. I wouldn’t change it for the world. In fact, I made sure it’d happen. I’m not as irresponsible as some who see themselves as gods. There’s always a sacrifice to be made, to give up, and…thus far, I’m the only one willing to do it even at personal cost.”

“What happened?” she asked, concerned.

He tilted his head, seeming more solemn now, more nostalgic. “He told me a few facts about his family over the camp fire. I knew his surname, I remembered his father’s name, that his father was gifted too. He told me the year he was from.”

He looked at his hands.

“Kaito was never good with women.”

The name on the stone of the grave he was in…

“He never spoke to them. It seemed unlikely he’d ever do so. Luckily I remembered the name of the mother as well. I finally found her. We were working in that…saving people business when an earthquake devastated several cities. You always have to be prompt with getting the system back in place or else there will be groups—gangs as you call them—who try to get power.

I found her half dead underneath some rubble. She had been working at a hospital when the building collapsed and I saw her nametag. Not an unique name but I knew I was right. I gave Kaito the syringe to save her life.

They worked together on reviving some and one night, I saw her making a paper crane for an injured child. You’d think it would never happen but I worked hard to make it happen by keeping her working on the injured until she finally saw something worth having in Kaito.

I made sure to give him a book of those stories about a samurai of legend to read to his children if he was to have any. I also suggested the name. He took it as ironic on what we were. For me, it was a private joke, meant it as reference to a cultural disaster of their own country, to show what a disaster this time-traveler would be.

Not so private a joke now.”

It seemed as if her tongue had swollen up several sizes, and she could not speak. She did tear up now.

“For over four hundred years, you let that control you?”

He raised the syringe and brought her health back again, but the needle hurt more than usual. Her tone must have been…off.

“I admire how dedicated you are to try to hurt me,” he commented.

She almost fell onto the floor in shock. He stood up and went back to the window.

“He’s the one who buried me alive. You can believe that, I didn’t bury myself alive…

You two would get along famously.”

And now she was hurt.

"I'm just being honest. There's nothing hurtful about that."

He didn't reply. There was nothing hurtful about what she had said but she had a feeling he had won that one.

***

Until she figured it out. Days of pain and failing kidneys and his silent treatment but she was figuring it out.

She guessed that he hadn't told that before, but it was because she'd never tell and with poison things like these stories, she was a safe contact. Far away enough to be forever (if that even applied anymore). She also guessed that she was the only one to understand this, even if he thought he was...winning.

Or maybe he just liked to see what she'd do to being hurt.

Only she wasn't playing a game like he was. There was no chance she'd care that much in terms of well, anything like that. She'd just be humane despite him, in spite of him.

But she wasn’t going to be played. She could see his faith in anyone but himself was shot, and maybe even that was wrong, but she clearly needed to be better than human after all.

She had a feeling he needed her to be. He wasn’t inhuman, he might be too human.

“Listen.” There was a show of not listening with him staring off into the hall. “I’m sorry. I’ll help you no matter what.”

“Would you?”

“Hey, I’m the one who took the bullet, not-.”

“Don’t. Go in that direction. I will find it unforgivable. We both know you acted out of self interest. Arthur was clear that you consented to having your power taken.”

“…Okay. That is true. Only, I know I would have never let you die either way. I know that much about myself, Adam."

“Claire.” She didn’t expect him to actually sit by her and put an arm around her. “Self-preservation isn’t a bad trait. I’ve told you before it’s more than understandable.”

Self-preserving like everyone else in the world. He had to hate her. She hated herself. She didn’t think Peter would have made her choice.

“It’s not that understandable, especially since you’re here.”

“I have a question. If you had the chance to take your powers back, would you?”

“I’m not sure if I should even wonder about it. What’s done is done, isn’t it?”

“What if I were to say,” His eyes flickered to the camera in the corner and lowered his voice to where only she could hear it, “that’s not exactly accurate.”

“But like this…that’s not a fair question. I think you know that.”

“You could perhaps, over time, get used to the environment."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"I just didn’t fancy you holding a grudge against me. Here's the truth, Claire.

“He can’t take two powers into his body at once. The only way that works is if the person he stole from first is dead. He’ll prefer you alive as a truce for his wife. However, if you chose not to go along with Arthur’s whim, where the receiver has to be receptive to the power for it to transfer…you sentence me to death. He won’t have a need for me anymore, you see, and out of that means of death, I can’t see a way out. I’ve tried but I can’t see it.

It’s how things are. You have that right to know.”

She wanted to be sick. “I hate this. I hate all of this and what you people do."

“I’ve lived a long life, and many would say I de-.”

“What do you want? For yourself."

He didn't look at her as if she had sprouted two heads. He understood exactly what she was saying because she didn't want to explain.

"Unexpected twist. Do you think I'm suicidal, Claire?"

"I'm not predicting your answer."

"I'm not going to say yes."

She looked straight ahead. "I'm going to have to interpret, somehow."

"I think I'm going to say no-." She saw him turn towards her sharply. "To him keeping the power. I'll accept it."

She didn't believe him entirely. She bet he could get away because he had something in mind.

He needed her to be immortal. That was what it came down to. She didn't want to be that way, but she couldn't take the chance that she'd end up killing someone that was under her watch, technically. He did owe her now.

“Then I’m in your debt.”

She shook her head quickly. “No, I don't think you are. You'll think of some way you aren't at least."

He tightened his grip and smiled with a hint of sardonic humor. “I won't forget this."

If the roles were reversed…maybe there’d be another option.

“I’ll have to let you drop in health. Can you do that?”

She just nodded.


***

And she did drop. Hard.

She endured this a long time, because she had to keep him safe and not let Arthur win. She could and would take it.

“You’re doing perfectly,” he said, under his voice. “Arthur will want to trade the power back soon.”

She looked at him blearily.

Claire had no words. He couldn’t be thinking of this plan. She couldn’t think with this much pain. She was terrible. Awful, stupid, and helpless. She could really only hurt instead of help, and if he was sane, he’d be better off with her gone.

“It’ll be fine,” he hissed. “Trust me.”

She was near dying again. "I should have been...better somehow."

She said it to really no one, was really in the back of her mind a kid again, cause that was how far and hard she had been pushed and had endured. But he pulled her back from death and then she heard him at the door.

“If he doesn’t have a plan soon, she’s going to be in constant agony. It’ll drive her mad. Tell him that it’s gone far enough.”

Claire struggled to her feet, stumbling intentionally, and he insisted on putting his arms around her. It gave her enough time to slip that tracking device in his jacket.

He didn’t notice, she didn’t think.

“You’ve been perfect as you are, and you’ve done enough,” he told her. “Leave the rest to me.”

“I-.”

“Don’t raise a hand against him. No killing."

Don't tell me what to do, she thought numbly but persistently.

The door opened and Daphne and Knox came in. Knox grabbed him instantly while Daphne wrapped her arm around her waist.

“I’m sorry,” Daphne whispered, face pale. “Please don’t hate me for this.”

Claire wanted to withhold any sympathy but she found herself nodding forgiveness. Arthur stood in the center of the room where there were two chairs in front of the desk. Claire was led gently to one of them while Adam was slammed into the other. Knox held him down with his hands on both of his shoulders.

Arthur stood in front of her.

What? She was expected to beg?

“You won’t get anything from her in that department,” Adam said wisely, and then held up his hands in surrender when Knox started to crush his shoulders.

“Oh I think I can. She just needs some perspective.”

She didn’t see it coming. Honestly, in the back of her mind, there was a vague desire for family and grandfather. He pulled the trigger on the gun and the bullet floated there for a moment...

Telekinesis, she thought, before the bullet slammed into her side.

She heard Knox cuss and saw Daphne’s feet near the door. She wanted to curl up and die, just die to make this end.

“And what do you say now?”

“I’d just let that one go,” Adam said. “No one has to know what happened here. Don’t be an idiot, I’m of more use to you!”

What, she thought.

“I’ve heard my son has this power. You know, to tie up lose ends…I bet you were wondering why I had a gun. I wouldn't give you the pleasure of being killed by a real power.”

He began to raise the gun and move to the back of the chair, and judging by Adam’s expression, this wasn’t in the plan. She’d have to beg.

“Don’t shoot him. I’ll take it back," Claire begged, as much as she could beg, put herself completely out there. Arthur smiled at her and she thought for one terrible moment, he was going to do it anyway.

That fucking—Claire used her pain to bury any words of pleading. It was dumb, but she was choosing it…and in the end, she didn’t have a choice. Arthur touched her hand and the pain didn’t just lift: it just vanished into a well, into a wall keeping her from everything else.

She didn’t have time to get up to hurt him. Suddenly Arthur knocked to the ground, and Knox was sliding down unconscious against the wall. Something metallic hit her leg and fell to the floor.

“Cut off his head!” Adam screamed in panic, and then, she assumed, repeated the order in Japanese, jumping to his feet. She looked up to see a familiar looking Japanese man, and though it was surreal to see him so instantly, she did know him well enough to see they were safe.

“Heroes don’t kill!” Hiro protested.

“You bloody useless-.”

Arthur was up on his feet, brushed his suit off, and threw them both back. Daphne inched closer to the door. Claire gaped at the scene, still shocked from the confusion of the pain until her eyes caught the sight of something black on the floor.

There was the gun against her foot. There was the thought ‘Oh my god, he’s going to massacre everyone in this room’. There was him reaching for Adam, and she screamed, "Stop, or I'll kill you'.

Arthur looked over, and tried to lift his other hand, while still going for Adam. She saw Hiro get closer to Adam instinctively, and Adam ducked behind Hiro...and push him forward and Arthur touch Hiro's arm.

Claire pulled the trigger.

And Adam stepped in front of the bullet with Hiro’s sword in his hands. Arthur had been looking back over at her in surprise, and didn’t expect the man to be in front of him so quickly.

Daphne screamed. She heard the thunk of the head. She made herself look. The door banged open behind her, and Daphne screamed again. She thought Arthur would be there but instead it was another Japanese guy. She (he) was lucky she didn’t have the strength to raise the gun again.

In a private bubble of time, she willed herself to feel horrified. It didn’t take as well as just a sort of dead relief that it was over. At least she wasn’t happy. Just numb, thank god.

She saw Adam glance over at her and shake his arm. The bullet dropped to the ground.

The screaming came into her hearing as if on another wave frequency. Hiro was speaking in Japanese, and Claire only got the meaning from the other side of the yelling, though he was shifting between Japanese and English. Hiro apparently wanted to go back and time and try to do this the right way.

Adam was red in the face, and she knew this had to be the guy.

Claire said, “It’s done. It won’t do any good to change it."

She didn't want Hiro to find out this way, and Hiro seemed to accpect it. There was a silence, only filled with a Japanese translation she wasn’t privy too.

“Okay,” Daphne said, knowing what had happened. “That’s it. I’m so done with this.”

Adam rolled his eyes. “This generation is full of cowards.”

Claire thought he was including her in that, and it hurt more than oh, killing her biological grandfather. Jesus. She stood up, and Hiro's friend took the gun out of her hand. She smiled, though she was irritated by the gesture.

Ando told her how they had been waiting

Adam had told them that was when Arthur would be at his most vulnerable. Adam kept his expression neutral though he couldn’t quite hide the smugness out of his eyes.

“What are you going to do with him?” Claire asked Hiro who blinked to life. Adam froze, listening.

“He’s going to take him back to his cell,” his friend translated.

“Or a coffin, either one,” Adam said, telling her what she already knew. Hiro grabbed the sword from Adam. This was obviously the wrong thing to do.

“I can take him back.”

“Uh, no. It’s best if we handle him. He’s very dangerous.”

They stared at each other. “No need to fight over me, there’s plenty of me to go around,” Adam said, laughing. “One more thing for you to do,” he said to Daphne. “Get the tapes from the main control room. For Claire’s sake.”

Daphne nodded and disappeared.

There was a horrible moment of silence. Adam looked at her pointedly. But she caught eye and then rubbed her neck, as if realizing she was missing something.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I guess I lost my necklace in the cell he keep us in,” Claire said slowly. Adam looked out the window. “Just one more thing, you know,” she said, using the tears already in her voice.

“I’ll help you find it.”

She smiled at him, and he looked flustered. She wished he didn’t look flustered. He spoke to Hiro quickly and followed her out the door.

“You, you’re like Adam?” he asked her on the way down.

“I am.” She didn’t want to talk about it more than that. “He approached you with the idea?”

“He did. We didn’t believe him at first.”

Claire slowed down to speak to him. “Did you know that Hiro buried him alive?”

Ando looked away. “His father was murdered by that man.”

Claire felt punched in the gut.

“What is it?” Ando asked.

“I had been hoping there could have been a solution. It would have worked if Hiro..."

Still had his power.

“Hiro is a good man, but he loved his father very much. I’m not sure, but I will try to convince him.”

"I know he is. I better check on them. Could you still find that necklace?"

That didn't exist. Ando nodded. Claire walked back as quickly as she could. She expected bloody chaos but instead Adam was sitting on the desk, staring at Arthur’s body.

Hiro looked up at her and then over her shoulder.

“Ando-kun?”

“He’s still looking,” Claire answered and then remembered the language barrier. “Oh, right…uh.”

Adam spoke to him, and Hiro looked confused. She didn’t like it, something was up. Claire held up her hands, motioning for Hiro to step closer to her.

Hiro did so with a shy smile. Then he dropped to the ground, and she gasped. Adam held in his hand a paperweight.

“Did you just kill him?!” Claire demanded.

“I told you not to get involved….and I didn’t kill him,” Adam said, lowering the paperweight. He knelt down and took back the sword. "I'm just taking back what is mine."

“Why didn’t you let me…?” She motioned to her grandfather’s body.

“You wanted to be better. Better would not be a seventeen year old girl shooting her grandfather.”

To say she was surprised would be an understatement. She didn’t understand. So, instead, she looked back to Hiro and then carefully knelt beside him.

“He’s going to be hard to convince when he wakes up.”

“Of what?”

“I was trying to get you out of a cell. This is not how we get support, by knocking people out."

Or cutting people's head off. She didn't look back in that direction.

“It’s too far gone, with Hiro,” Adam said, and she sensed something was really wrong. “It’s too far.”

“There has to be a way to fix this,” Claire said. She jerked when there was a knock on the door.

“I’m not coming back in there with a decapitated body, so,” Daphne said. “If you want the tapes, come and get them.”

“Hold her off,” he whispered. Yeah, cause this looks bad? No kidding. She paused, having a feeling...something in his face.

"I know you won't do anything to him," she whispered back.

He stared at her.

"You have a choice not to be controlled," she said, with confidence, and on a huge leap of faith, shut the door, but kept her hand on the knob. In case.

“Thanks,” she said to Daphne.

“I didn’t mean to…it’s like he took powers. I can’t lose mine. That’s all I’m going to say, take it or leave it.”

Claire studied her. “He was pretty freaking scary. You shouldn’t hold anything against yourself.”

Daphne struggled to smile. “Well, I’m off, but I want to say good-bye to Hiro.”

“I think he left already,” Claire said smoothly. Not a bad liar after all.

“I can catch him,” Daphne said, laughing and disappeared down the hall. Claire waited and then opened the door...to see only a still unconscious Hiro (only a still unconscious one) and the window open.

He was long gone by the time she got across the room.

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