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Pairing: Adam/Claire



Weeks before her life would change again, Claire’s existence outside the facility seemed like time misplaced.

Within the walls, Claire would forget about his past and outside, among others, it all came rushing back like a flashflood. The men hinted heavily that she mind her own business. But he was her business.

She was offered to give an order or a suggestion—in this way that made her want to balk instinctively. She didn’t like not being heard.

She told them not to talk to him. Not to listen to him. Not to even look at him except through the camera, and if anyone is needed in the room, she’d go herself. They thought that was a little extreme, well, they obviously weren’t briefed.

Claire didn’t know where those swords were. She told the two men that he was dangerous, repeatedly, and they looked amused.

Passing by Adam’s window, he looked perfectly at ease in his bloody clothes. She stopped, questioning with her gaze, and he nodded, a signal for her to go.

Well, all right. She’d wash her hands of it. Claire walked the streets, with normal people, and planned, as always, not to think of it. Usually she was good at picking up the pieces and moving on. She still liked simple things like someone walking their dog or people holding hands.

Only she couldn’t quite adhere. In a music-bookstore café, she wondered what he’d think of the music there. If he liked classical, to be cliché enough, or would even prefer something more modern? If he liked music at all? He probably hated music. So, she put effort into enjoying the classical music playing over and over again.

While she was walking the mall, she thought about how many people were lucky she was watching Adam. He would have escaped eventually, and well, there was the threat. The more she thought about it, the more important it became. She was the one who was saving lives by caging him. She was doing a good thing.

In the park, she had to ask herself if she was as smart as Adam was. Honestly evaluate it. She didn’t know if his intelligence was true intelligence. Being a conman was clever, but it wasn’t smart. He had survived a long time, and Claire didn’t know if she wanted to, even, but she had to, since he-

Sitting on the bench in the park, Claire realized she was fixating. It was hard to admit, as much as she wanted it to be so, that she hadn’t…done enough. She still felt like Angela and Adam, even in his position, were calling the shots to this whole thing. She knew that the one thing that would change this for her would be walking away from it.

Adam had years of people wanting something from him. Claire would allow that, in many ways, it wasn’t fair to him. Either people had seen the lie, not knowing he had an ability, or people had seen the half-truth, and none of it was the whole of him. According to him, they had wanted to the lie.

She herself had gone to see him because of the ability. Oh, she didn’t trick or hurt herself by wondering if things had been different, she wouldn’t have gotten him out of the ground. That game of his was wrong. But it wouldn’t have held the same weight.

That was really unfair.

She should have understood it in the beginning. She had been in the process of understanding when she told him that she didn’t want to exploit him. He wouldn’t care, and if she was honest, it’d be for the best for him not to.

But it really couldn’t matter what he thought if she was going to make this work for the long-term.

Claire went home and got to work. She hoped he wouldn’t take it the wrong way. She didn’t turn on the news while she made lunch.

The implications of his words, about attacks, could never fully leave her mind. She wouldn’t give in, not completely, but that didn’t take away that fact that there was a way…and one that seemed impossible to take.

She hoped he didn’t mind crust on his sandwiches.

***

“What are you doing?” Claire demanded, stunned. She felt stupid, walking in on someone being stabbed with needles as if this was just a run-of-a mill occurrence.

“He has healing blood,” one man, named Davis, said. He meant well, with his answer, and she could see he had a wedding ring on.

“But you really shouldn’t…treat a person like a blood bank.”

Adam did that typical stiff upper lip thing when it came to being called a person. He was ridiculous.

“It’ll be safe, I’m being watched on camera. He knows better than to try anything.”

Adam agreed, looking complacent about the syringes that were hooked up to him, all up and down his arms. He had his sleeves rolled up, and it was if Davis and him had some sort of understanding that excluded her. She looked between them both.

“No, no,” she said. “Not okay.”

“What? This is standard procedure for him. We need to keep our people alive.”

“He can feel pain. I, on -.”

“The other hand, is a Petrelli who doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Adam interrupted.

David gave him a warning look and then directed his attention back to her. “What’s in the bag?”

Claire showed him, quickly to make it difficult.

“That’s sweet,” Davis said. “I’ll be watching. No funny stuff,” he directed to Adam before leaving.

“This is wrong,” she said, instantly.

“Claire. You’re going to be a thorn in my side. You really are a Petrelli, even though an average one. I suspect Arthur is disappointed in you.”

“S…” she paused, getting a hold of herself. What. She was on a file, wasn’t she?

“You’re lucky the cameras weren’t on before.” Adam added. Because he had disabled them. Damn. It was like turning a corner and being hit in the face. Or opening a bedroom door and…well, hitting someone in the face, she humored herself. “I didn’t think you cared about stabbing me. You’re only responsibility is to keep them from being opportunistic and trying to steal me away for the government.”

Oh. Kay. She got why Angela didn’t share the information. Shit. She flushed, and went on the defensive.

“It’s different when someone else stabs you,” Claire protested, and then realized how fucked up that sounded.

He rolled his eyes. “Let’s focus on what matters. What did you bring me?”

“Sandwiches. I made them,” she said, slowly and feeling more stupid by the millisecond. “For you. I thought you’d be hungry.”

“You were right. Thank you.”

She looked up at the camera.

“Might I have one?” Adam asked. She took out a sandwich and offered it to him, watching the blood flowing through the tubes. That must have happened all the time for him. “It’s rude to stare.”

Claire jerked. “Well…it’s rude to…point that out.”

“It’s rude to point out that I pointed it out.”

Claire narrowed her eyes.

“All right. I shall shut up and eat. From human blood bank to zoo animal.”

She sat down beside him, and she did so very enthusiastically. She did it purely to freak him out. She also found out that he hadn’t put the swords back in the closet.

“Your mattress appears to be lumpy,” she said, under her breath. “We’ll have to fix that.”

“I have the right to have my mattress anyway I want it.”

“I would have stayed if you felt like…. But you wouldn’t respect me if I did something as dumb as let you be uncomfortable,” Claire said, raising an eyebrow.

“I didn’t know you wanted my respect, Claire.”

“Everyone wants respect.”

“But respect has to be earned. Not everyone deserves respect.”

“…Okay,” she said. “That’s true.”

“I believe I said you hold up well. So one more time, you endure hardship very well. I won’t say it again.”

She didn’t want anything from him, no, and even though she flushed, it was just a moment of dislike at the blushing. Oh wait, that was out of order. She looked out the window, disliking this whole situation. Disliking, just disliking that she was afraid, suddenly.

“I think our memories are pretty good,” she derailed the subject. “I’ve always remembered things very vividly, like everything happened yesterday. So you won’t have to say it again.”

“I forgot about that. Damn, you’re right.”

Claire laughed. “Still, I should have just stayed because. I don’t really know these guys.”

He paused. Then waved it away. “It’s all right. They find their power over me tempting. But they won’t try anything.”

Claire stared at him. Looked at the camera. Looked at him again. “If you intended that statement to make me absolutely furious, then it did. You shouldn’t be harassed. I’m going to put a stop to that right now.”

“No,” Adam said. “I’m just telling you. Don’t react over something simple and actually very basic. People in a position of power usually take advantage. Even the good. Especially the good.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Doesn’t make it not true. You’re innocent, so it wouldn’t occur to you. And that’s not a bad thing,” he amended, when she was about to correct him. “You shouldn’t be in such a hurry to change that aspect to yourself.”

“Okay, I do believe it can happen, but not all the time. Not everything is a power struggle.”

Adam scoffed in disbelief. “You’re judging them, then?”

“Adam,” she warned. He shrugged. “And yeah, you want me to be innocent so you can eat me alive.”

“In less cannibalistic terms—while I’m eating, you notice—you have too many limitations to become anything but corrupt if you push yourself.”

“I’m still reading into-.”

“I’m not fond of the idea of your corruption. Are you? It’s not a right of passage into adulthood.”

“I can make the right decisions, when it comes down to it.”

“Best to be sure that you’re doing it for your own reasons.”

If that was a jab at her father…well. That wasn’t…exactly wrong with how she thought of things…

“It’s immature to think there’s not a pro and con to any situation. When you came to find me, I imagine you didn’t see this as a consequence.”

He’s the beacon of immaturity. Not experiencing certain aspects of life would make you…ill adjusted, a great big Peter Pan. Just pointing that one out, only she wouldn’t because she fell under the umbrella as well.

“It’s not to me,” Claire argued. “I’m…not upset with you out of the ground as a consequence, I mean.”

He remained detached. “All I ask is, when you feel any need to inflict harm, you come to me to do that.”

What. Claire swallowed hard. She could do that to herself, anyway, but it seemed really rude to tell him off about the offer.

“…how’s your sandwich?”

“I’d rather not comment on that. I’m waiting for the question. I’ve been waiting since I first met you.”

Completely mocking. The question of whether he really wanted to help people. If there was some normal goodness which would make her life easier…Claire wanted to laugh. That was so stupid, all of it. All of it was.

“I would like to ask a question. With an honest to god answer.”

He waited.

“Would you get rid of fun stuff like skating or amusement parks or…and you’ve never been skating a day in your life, have you? Huh.”

“If I live to four thousand years old, I will never have skated. What a loss,” he said, dismissive. “It’s such a -.”

“Challenge. I challenge you to do it,” Claire said.

“Declined.”

“Hah,” Claire said smugly. “Then I won.”

“You can have it.”

“I will.”

“Fine.”

“Good.”

So messed up, Claire thought. Truly. She reached over and took a sandwich out of the bag. Things were quiet again. She didn’t care. She was zen.

“The sandwiches need a little more mayo.”

“Then add some from the other sandwiches,” Claire growled.

“But it could use more salt too.”

She sprang to her feet. Adam stared up at her, all blue eyes.

“I’m not going to get mad about sandwiches,” she said, shaking her head. He touched her bare knee with his fingertips, apparently signaling some approval.

“I thought you enjoyed sparring with me,” he added.

Claire raised an eyebrow. “I do.”

Wait, can’t say that! “Kinda, I mean, within a completely normal healthy amount,” she said quickly. “But how does someone screw up a sandwich? That’s ridiculous.”

He sighed. “I don’t really favor that many condiments. I guess your family didn’t as well.”

“They did give the dog a lot of scraps under the table,” she admitted, and he laughed.

“It actually wasn’t bad at all,” he said, after a pause.

“Hey, what’s your shirt size?”

“Why?” he asked, suspicious. She motioned for him to lean over and while he did, keeping his eye on her, she read the tag on the back of his shirt.

“I’m going to get you a new shirt. I don’t have enough chocolate milk in the fridge to cover that blood stain.”

“The price is a little steep for you.”

Claire smiled, harshly.

“You could take a little out of your grandparents’ funds.”

Claire shook her head.

“Too proud,” he said, knowingly.

“You’ll just have to make your peace with wearing a hundred percent cotton.”

“What would I do without you?”

“Blow up New York?”

“Thanks for reminding me.” He put the basket aside. “I’ll pay you back, for the shirt.”

“All right. Any request from the outside?”

“A book. I don’t much care what it is. I’ve read most philosophical texts.”

“Then I can bring you something I bet you haven’t read! It’s a really popular series.”

“I can’t wait,” he said, sounding as if he could wait. “If I have to read that, you have to read something of my choosing. Misery loves company.”

“I can tell,” Claire said. “And I’m not reading evil philosophy. Nietzsche. Yes, I’ve watched TV,” she added, at his look. “I know about the evol philosophy and how people bring him up all the time to justify their schemes.”

“There’s very little new or with actual merit nowadays, and to say a philosophy you’ve never read is evil, is more than a little close-minded.”

“Well. Lately I would just like something fun to read anyway, you know? I can read that later,” Claire said.

“I was going to chose a mystery series, but I feel like forcing you to read ‘evil’ philosophy out of spite now.”

“Spite, you see, that’s how it starts.” He glared at her. “You can’t make me.”

“What an ingenious retort. And so, I won’t be reading your book either.”

“Oh come on. I feel like this is a rubber versus glue fight.”

“Are you implying-.”

“I’d really like the mystery series. Please tell me what you’d suggest.”

He relented. He wanted her to read Sherlock Holmes, and then after that, something by Orwell. The Animal Farm was such a subtle piece.

“I’ll be back, and I’m staying the night,” Claire said. “I think I might fail Angela’s test if I don’t stay full time. Heads will roll,” she added, in a warning to him not to try anything while she was gone.

“But what’s your book?” he demanded.

“You’ll have to wait to find out!” Claire waved. “See you tonight.”

She used cash Angela had proved her with instead of a credit card. It’d have been really telling if she bought a shirt with his exact measurements. She went by the library and checked out some books.

She made it back and was glad the I.V.’s were gone. She stood to the side, looking down the hall while he changed shirts. She thought he thought it was funny but she didn’t really care.

Then: book exchange.

“Claire.”

She sat outside the window, beginning to read.

“Claire,” he repeated with emphasis. “This is completely unacceptable. Rude and just, socially unacceptable.”

“It’s only a kid’s book,” she replied carelessly.

“RIGHT.”

“Harry Potter is a great story. It has layers to it, and adults I know read it.”

“Explains so much.”

“Ah, the inescapable nature of compromise.”

The library book was opened harshly, and Adam laid back to read it. Claire began her story again.

“Good lord, the cover art. Reminds me of that time I ran into that fellow with leprosy before I cured him. What unspeakable horrors have happened to this drawf?”

“You cured a man of….I’m reading now,” Claire said. Now, a detective story did have twists every which way, and Claire amused herself by trying to figure out the ending beforehand. She got close a few times, but it was always through some amazing elementary trick that the detective figured out the case.

“Hmm.” There was a rustling noise. An obnoxious rustling noise. He was trying to get her attention. She looked up and saw that he was done, the book placed very far away from him.

“So?” she prompted.

“…it was decent,” he answered. She went back to reading. “But the title hints at a series,” he resumed after a long pause.

Claire pulled the second book out of her bag. “I was going to re-read this one, since I didn’t keep my copy for long before Lyle took it. But would you like to read this one?”

“I might as well,” he said, and Claire too elated about this turn of events. Yes.

Thinking about it, she was much too elated to be normal, so that put her in a bad mood again.

Adam, however, calmly enjoyed the book, chuckling at some passages.

***

Claire passed her GED.

She kept up talking to her dad. During a crucial time, she was ushered out of the facility again, in case Sylar or her father asked where she was as well. But the danger zone was over after a week, for now, and Peter was talking about coming to visit her and taking up his job again.

That was a little more difficult but so far, Angela kept him at bay in another city still.

Claire could tell by her talks with Angela that Angela really couldn’t find too many faults with what she was doing. So, it had been a long enough to move on to the next step of the plan.

“I’m going to ask her to let us try outside,” Claire told him.

“Too soon,” Adam answered, not looking up from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

“It’s been weeks.”

“Already claustrophobic from being in here?” He tsked. “And after only two weeks.”

“You sound as if you want me locked up,” Claire challenged.

He paused. “No, I wouldn’t wish that upon you. I want to wait to see what Angela is up to. And you can’t assume you’re in good standing yourself. Angela can dream the future, and if it has to do with you and isn’t to your liking, she can perceive anyone as a threat.

For all I know, I’m being left alive to keep you in check.”

Claire felt the blood drain out of her face. “…Seriously. Not everything is a conspiracy or power thing, really. I’d like for some things not to be, at least. You know if someone thinks they are better than humanity, then maybe they could think of another way.”

He didn’t answer but kept to his reading. Oh hell, the guy was a soldier forever, he was used to fighting.

“The thing is, it’ll be harder to watch you unless I’m in college, out of town. I could watch you, you know, when I’m supposed to be there.”

“Under the pretence of going to college? So you don’t plan on attending.”

“I haven’t decided yet,” she admitted.

“Certainly not doctor of philosophy. You have a preference. Just say the first thing that comes to your mind?”

“A doctor, not of philosophy, but of…maybe medicine?”

He smiled at her.

“Not because of anything in particular,” she added. “But I don’t really know.”

“I’d suggest law.”

She made a face at him.

“Thought so. There goes my plan for having a permanent lawyer. Then, computer science. Technology is the future.”

“Maybe.”

“You actually don’t have to learn anything. College would be better as just a pretense for someone in your situation. I have more than enough money stashed away to support you.”

She sputtered. She couldn’t help it. Dammit. He raised the book again. She looked down at her sandals and…something hit her hard.

“When did you stop aging?” she asked.

“I believe seven years after my power manifested, but from the get-go, my body didn’t change, not really. However, when you sustain a large trauma, that’s the cut-off point.”

Great, white, cold…fear and horror. “Oh,” she said, distantly. “That makes sense.”

Adam put down the book in an instant, realization flooding his face and something else that almost looked like sympathy (almost, distantly, but it wasn’t pity, she noticed), and Claire recoiled. When he grabbed her hand, she didn’t pull away.

He held her.

She wasn’t going to outright cry in front of him (never), but she held on to him. He felt good, to hold on to. And there was too much of a distance between them to be realistic. This was a good thing, in many protective ways. She was only letting this happen because he was so distant. But still, Claire…

“Sometimes I really hate you,” Claire said, keeping her voice steady.

“And your future occupation should be working for Hallmark cards.”

He tried to pull away but she held on even tighter, burying her head in his shirt. One that she had bought. She’d better not cry on it. Mission accomplished.

“You are a very strange girl.” He sighed and leaned back, letting her put her head on his shoulder. “By the way, I’ve already thought of three solutions to your problem, as far as interacting in society goes.”

“I know you would. Are they all illegal?”

“Claire, you insult me. Of course they are.”

She had to smile at that.

“I’ll help you,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

Of course, he was old enough to know that there were certain things that couldn’t be undone. It didn’t seem as if he was saying that as much as…well, solidarity. It was hard to ignore the fact that she’d be a potential embarrassment to whomever she was with, or whatever she tried to do.

“This helps now. Thanks.”

“Ah. That was easy.” He patted her hand. He did let her stay there, for some time.

***

A week later, Claire got the call from Peter, at three o’clock.

Angela had died from poisoning at the home she was staying at. He and Nathan…and Sylar were searching the house, and they had found the person who had been responsible.

One of Arthur’s old plants, working as her assistant. The call that had signaled the plant came from the time during Claire and Adam was captured, and had come from Primatech.

The call had to have been from Arthur.

Her first instinct had been to go to him, but then she remembered. She needed to go check on Adam. Davis had sent her away again, in fact, just five hours ago, but…she just wanted to check if things were okay.

She drove in the dark and though the road outside the city was treacherous, she got to the facility within the hour.

She knocked on the window, and Adam jerked awake, rarely disheveled. She guessed she found this sight a little funny and enjoyable.

“Hey,” she said. He stared at her, waiting.

“…What?”

She didn’t want to give him satisfaction but she did have to tell him. She wanted to be the one to tell him.

“Angela’s dead.”

He sat bolt up.

“How? Details please.”

“I don’t know. Arthur might have had something to do with it. Beyond that, I’m in the dark too.”

It was…well, she was at the home because of him and his radioactive ploy. But she supposed the person Arthur called could drive. He would have come up to New York too. She was going to try and fight off blame for herself.

“I won’t insult you and say I’m sorry for it.”

“Thanks,” Claire said, and oddly enough, meant it. “But was she…was she always like that? You know.”

He paused, contemplative. “She had her reasons. One reason in particular. Care to hear it?”

She swallowed hard. “Not right now, no.”

“Good, I didn’t feel like telling it.”

“We would have had to get out the swords again.”

“Are you sorry for it?” he asked. Claire hadn’t gotten to know Angela, ever. She didn’t think she was a bad person, for what it was worth. Just…at times, over concerned with what Adam seemed to be, the big picture at the cost of actually living.

“Her being dead doesn’t seem real. But I’m sorry. Peter’s…very hurt.”

“You can’t protect him from that, I’m afraid.”

“Yeah.” She rubbed her forehead for a moment. “We should figure out where this leaves you. Do you think you’re still safe here?”

“On one hand,” he said, getting into planning ahead very quickly. He kept on his toes, that was for sure, “they could expect that I’d come out of hiding with her death. On the other hand, she is dead. Sylar might not be as much of a threat to me.”

“Why would Angela affect Sylar’s decision about you?”

“Angela had a lot to do with Sylar being in the Company, and you should think about how she did that.”

“I have no idea,” Claire admitted.

“His power. Think about it. What does his power tells us about the man?”

The man. Yeah right.

“He steals, he’s a thief. A coward. He’s like this black hole-.”

“Exactly. A cipher. He has no nature of his own. It’s all dependent on others.”

“So, you’re saying he was dependent on whatever Angela defined him as? That sounds too easy, too…unstable.”

“Oh, it was dangerous. She took the risks but that’s what one has to do. Somehow, she set herself up as something that defined him. Perhaps, now that she is gone…he has to find another to define himself by.”

“Are you talking about yourself, here?” Claire demanded.

“You wish.”

“Not really.”

“You should,” he said, smiling at her. “Think of the potential. But I suspect Peter will take Angela’s place in Sylar’s mind. For all his flaws, my death would not endear him to Peter.”

“That could be true. Well, it is true, it’s Peter, but what about the Company guys guarding you here?”

“The interesting thing is who owns the Company at the moment. One of you does. It would depend on them.”

“…Not Peter.”

“No, not Peter,” Adam agreed, and she didn’t think they were meaning it in the same way.

“Nathan?”

“Or yourself.”

Claire almost fell down. “Uh. Doubtful. Scratch me off the list.”

Adam smirked. “Don’t tell me it hadn’t occurred to you.”

“I will tell you. Several times. As long as it takes.”

“But your protests wouldn’t change the fact that Angela would add a twist to anything.”

“It does sound like her, but-.”

The door down the hall opened and there were footsteps coming their way. Adam motioned for her to hide.

He didn’t have to do that. She would have hid. Before the people got there. She hid in the cell across from his, hiding behind the wall. She was glad she brought along a taser.

She peered around the corner, watching as Davis came into view with someone she didn’t know. He wasn’t in company uniform, but in the prisoner uniform. They stopped outside Adam’s cell.

“…Giving him a tour first?” Adam asked, lightly.

“Just wondering why you’re awake.”

“I heard you.”

“Good. Come to think of it, it’d be better for you to be awake.”

Uh-oh. Claire put her hand on the taser and got to her feet. She was going to take the main agent out. The prisoner did have cuffs on. But still, she didn’t know what he could do. What if he spontaneously blew up?

The Special goes down first.

“You woke Claire up too,” Adam commented. Claire had to hurry to lean against the wall and act casual to conceal her intended assault.

“Oh,” Davis said, turning around quickly. “I thought I sent you home.”

Claire held back a retort. “What’s going on? This facility isn’t supposed to have anyone else in here.”

“Emergency.”

“Such an emergency that you have time to chat?”

“If he’s dangerous, lock him up, by all means,” Adam said.

Davis scoffed and pulled the prisoner along. Claire waited until they were out of sight and then glared.

“Why’d you stop me?”

“There were two of them.”

“He was in cuffs, he-.”

“Was the one you should have gone for,” Adam said. Claire stared at him.

“That was the one I was going for!”

The look on his face was epic but not in a good way, considering the situation. Claire was quiet, her heart pounding and looking after where they went.

“Unlock my door.”

She did so, and he kept it half shut, looking down the hall where the two had disappeared.

“We should leave,” Claire whispered, and he shook his head, and she thought she saw that curiosity on his face again. “We can’t be sure what’s going on. I missed the chance to take the Special out. So, let’s go.”

Adam seems to agree. He goes back for the sword under the mattress. She’d say that was just like a guy, but she couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she was annoyed by it.

“I need a weapon,” he said in response. No sentimental value, no sir.

“I have a taser.”

“You’d have more luck gnawing at his kneecaps.”

“Glad you’re so casual about this.”

“I’ve been in worse situations. This is almost boring.”

“You can be bored all you want after-.”

A gunshot went off and echoed down the halls. “—we survive this,” Claire finished.

Now, he started to move, and for a young-old guy, Adam could move quickly and with purpose. Her legs were too short for this pace.

“You have a plan. We aren’t just running through the halls. You have a brilliant plan.”

He gave her a look that she interpreted as ‘I have a marvelous plan’. She didn’t have time to demand an explanation.

She rounded the corner first, of all things because she was running, and the prisoner was in her face, yelling and screaming. In two seconds, this bearded psycho had his cuffs around her neck and the other sword in his hand.

He was going to take off her head. Her world went white again, with fear, and she struggled to no avail. After all that, she’d die, and if she survived this, she didn’t know what she’d do.

Thanks a lot, Adam.

But out of the corner of her eye, she saw that she was wrong, that he hadn’t left her, but swung hard, at her attacker’s neck. It was by luck that the psycho moved and Adam mostly got his back. The man screamed and fell to his knees, but turned to look up at his attacker.

Claire fell to the ground as well, struggling to not fall into unconsciousness. Blood was dripping down the back of her head again. She just had to pull it together. There was a mealy of sounds, with the agent pulling the prisoner to his feet.

“I lost control over him, I’m sorry,” Davis said, not looking at her. “Take Monroe back to his cell.”

Claire thought that was odd because she was the one on the floor. She grimaced as Adam hurried to help her. Embarrassing.

“Was that a false alarm?” Claire asked. “What should we do?” she asked under her breath.

“I suppose it was,” Adam said. In a cadence that didn’t quite…match. Claire looked away, uneasy. She was missing something, something…probably pretty weird. “But I think, while he’s distracted…we could run for it.”

His eyes looked different. Not as cold. She had to think of something to test her theory, and then she spotted the sword.

“Not without your safety blanket,” Claire said and picked up his sword, tossing it at him. He fumbled it and dropped it on the floor.

Her heart stopped. Couldn’t be. But could. There had been some kind of body switch. If she thought about it, she’d scream and panic.

Instead, like everything, she went with it.

“God, you can’t do anything by yourself, can you?” she challenged, picking it up again, and he glared at her.

“I saved you.”

Claire paused and then smiled her best smile. “I should thank you for that.” She knew it wasn’t Adam, for sure, because this guy fell for it. He smiled back and leaned forward—and she stabbed him.

He gasped and tried to choke her but she kept the sword in and twisted it. Losing blood that fast would take enough of a toll. Claire shoved and twisted the guy into a nearby cell, and he didn’t have any threshold at all.

He choked and gasped, and she tried not to look at him. She pushed him on top of a bed and jammed the sword through to the metal springs, pinning him down and locking him in.

Time was running out.

Claire grabbed the second sword off the ground and ran down the hall after them. All she had to do was follow the trail of blood.

***

Davis was halfway out the door, holding the unconscious and bleeding Adam.

“You’re kidding right?” Claire asked, stepping out into sight. Davis turned out, watching her. “He tried to kill me. You’re just going to take him out to sit in a cell after he tried to kill me?”

Davis paused. Then smiled. “It’s a pity. I understand how you feel about these kind of people. My daughter died because of one of these people.”

Regarding that Claire was one of those people, she didn’t think he did understand.

“I’m sorry,” she said, and was. “But give me one minute. I deserve that much after nearly dying.”

Davis propped Adam against the wall. Apparently the irony of the act was too much for him to resist. Claire smiled, in what she hoped was a mean evil way, and walked towards the body.

She held out the sword, looked over her shoulder at Davis, and moved to swing it (planning on swinging it around on him).

The sword was knocked out of her hand before she even moved.

“You don’t think I would buy that,” Davis said, grabbing her wrist. She responded with a taser to his side.

“Then you get this instead,” Claire said, shoving him back. The gun. Where was the gun? He grabbed her by the hair and jerked her backwards.

She found out where the gun was, now pointed near and around her neck.

“All right, on more move, and you lose a lung,” Davis growled into her ear. She looked down at the gun against her collarbone. She could pull the trigger and kill him, as the bullet passed through her. She could, and moreover, she could.

Instead she reached around, frantically to the back of his neck, and he laughed…but stopped abruptly and dropped like a rock when she pressed that place.

The gun fell to the floor.

Claire couldn’t believe it for a full…second, until she sprung into action.

Claire grabbed the taser in her pocket and tasered Davis to keep him down.

She slipped her hand into his pocket and pulled out the handcuff keys. On autopilot, just getting things down, she got the cuffs off Adam and onto him, pulling his hands behind his back. The man cried out with pain.

Claire got up and went over to Adam, kneeling in front of him carefully. She touched his knee.

“Adam.”

“…hurts like the devil. What happened?” he asked, keeping his eyes closed. He was in pain.

“Tell me…” Claire couldn’t ask that. She couldn’t ask him what to do. She swallowed hard. “I’ll be back, just…I’ll be back. Just don’t try to move.”

She did find a syringe.

The worst thing was that it wasn’t enough to fix this, and in contrast to earlier, he showed no emotion at all.

***

Adam insisted that she do the integrations.

Claire didn’t understand why. He knew what to ask more than she did. He just smiled at her harshly, and she got that. She wouldn’t want fragile sympathy right now either.

But she was standing in front of the cell, with her arms crossed and watching…Adam.

This was sick, but she wasn’t going to show emotion or flinch at it.

“Well,” Claire said. “You might as well talk. Your partner is in a cell now too.”

He looked at her.

“You’re immortal, right?” he asked, after awhile.

“You knew that but you’re partner didn’t. Good teamwork, there. Who told you? Angela? Was this her plan if anything happened to her, to swap you with Adam?”

He nodded. She closed her eyes for a moment.

“What’s your real name?”

“I don’t really have one. I haven’t for most of my life. I manifested when I was a kid. I couldn’t keep my body, so I had to take others.”

Claire stared at him. “Others? How long have you been alive?”

“I’m fifty.”

“Then why others? Why not just one body?” She made sure to let him know that she disapproved.

“The body doesn’t last long, when I’m there.”

Now she got it. “She neutralized him, but didn’t want me to know.”

“It was more about you than him,” he said. “She didn’t want you to be alone. I want a life. It worked out. I’m not a bad person. I did what I had to do.”

“…Only you didn’t have to. I’m sorry, for what happened to you, but you don’t have the right to anyone’s body. You chose to take someone else’s life. The Company chose to use that. Our blood would have been enough to stabilize you.

But one body is one too many. You’re not a bad person but you’re not a good person either.”

“I don’t think you have a right to judge. You didn’t experience it. With your body, you’ve never felt a moment of pain.”

Her heart twisted inside, and she wished she could feel pain so the digging of her fingernails into her arms would keep her steady. She had to go on. She did feel sorry but…this couldn’t happen.

“…I’ve had my moments. But it wouldn’t matter. Everyone has a reason for what they do, but it doesn’t give them a right.”

“That’s….you don’t get it. You’re a kid. She told me about that.”

“Did she also send you to keep me in check?”

He was quiet.

“How naïve do you think I am,” Claire demanded. “You’re going to do the right thing for once and give Adam his body back.”

“You are naïve!” he burst out. “Do you know how bad that guy is? I’ve heard the stories, read the files on him. They did get some memories out of him-.”

“His memories which they stole,” Claire argued. “I’m sure they got a few.”

“You don’t know what he’s done. He’s…horrible. I could even show you the memories, if you don’t believe me. I just want to live. That’s all I want, a normal life.” This caught her attention and held it. Her chest twisted more. It is what she wanted…and the man caught her look. “This is my chance to have it. It’s a chance for you too.”

And it was. She could see that clearly. This was a man, she could start over with. Begin immortality anew. If not, she wasn’t sentenced to watching him forever. Adam had probably done…so many things.

But…it wasn’t about her. She couldn’t let this happen. Even if she lost something from it, her own life and happiness, she couldn’t let it happen.

“Let me show you some memories, they are under an encrypted file in the system, but I could show you-.”

“I don’t care. It wouldn’t matter if he set fire to orphanages on Christmas Eve, it is his body. This isn’t the past or future, this is now, and what you are doing is wrong.”

“He’s set his share of fires. And you’re making a mistake,” the man said, slowly. “For yourself, you are making a mistake.”

“I’m making a decision I’m willing to live with. Sometimes you can’t be completely selfish. You know, it’s a possibility, but I can hook you up with my blood. I know the man who you stole it from is probably dead. Maybe from your power, but I guess you had to keep them quiet somehow in the beginning.”

…She was right, she could see that much.

“What about that? You take the body back, and you do have a normal life in a normal body. It works out. I promise I’ll let you go.”

He was very, very quiet at that. Claire thought so. He wanted Adam’s body specifically. He wanted immortality, not a normal life.

“I’ll give you an hour or so to think about it…whoever you are. Then the decision is made for you.”

She walked away, away from everything.

***

Her heart was heavy and she felt sick when she saw him, in that body.

“Well?” Deceptively cheerful.

She looked down. “He doesn’t seem…like he’s willing to leave your body. But we can figure out a way.”

“Can we?” he asked.

“You can,” Claire said.

“We don’t have a file on him. This could be a permanent transfer. Perhaps they’ve gone soft and didn’t test him, an approach you would prefer.”

“You can figure a way out of it. If anyone can, you can,” Claire said. He looked up sharply. His look was just…cold but wild at the same time. She didn’t take a step back, though she wanted to. “Why are you attacking me? I know this is…I’m here for you. I hate that I have to say that but I will.

Don’t you know that?”

“I know you did.” He looked away.

‘You Did’. Wait. She jerked at the realization.

“You wanted to see what I’d do,” Claire accused, her feelings hurt. It was understandable but she was still hurt. “You went to the surveillance room and watched.”

“Well. Now I don’t know whether the gesture was sincere or not, since you’re mentioning it.”

She gaped at him.

“…You don’t know,” she said slowly. For that alone, she should walk out. She should just throw her hands up and thank god that she didn’t have to hurt him, or…that she didn’t have to do anything. Easy solution. It was a good solution. Angela had seen that it was. Even if the body-thief was a thief, he wasn’t on the level of Adam as of yet, if ever. “I didn’t know you were going to give up so easily.”

“I’m not. Giving up,” he ground out, and it was a lie. He didn’t know he was lying, but he was. He was just sitting on that stupid Company bed, and…Claire was angry. One part of her wanted to back away but instead she sat beside him, not looking away from him.

“You can’t give up, Adam. It’s not who you are.”

“You presume to know,” he said.

Wrong approach. She wouldn’t have like it either. Damn.

“I just…I don’t want you to give up,” she said, struggling with it, with how to say it without giving up too much. “I wouldn’t leave you like this, anyway, but about the future, it’s completely selfish. No one else can bother me for all eternity as much as you.”

He kept his eyes locked on the floor, but she saw his lip twitch a little.

“You have to be here to keep me in check. I wouldn’t listen to anyone else,” Claire said. “So…please don’t give up.”

He swallowed hard and nodded. “I wouldn’t feel safe leaving you here in the world. What would you do?” he asked.

“You’ve got it,” Claire said, almost tearing up in her voice. She might have a little but not much. To cry on someone now, in this position, would be unhelpful. It would be unbearable to hurt him right now. She wanted to do more, but she had to hold back.

“…I just need some time to think. I’ll have the solution.”

“I’ll be here,” she said simply, leaving him to think. She calmed herself down, or tried to. She had faith that Adam would think of something.

He had to.

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