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[personal profile] black_hat
Pairing: Adam/Claire



Claire stood in the corner of the hallway, breathing in and out. Her head was sore, and her heart was still twisted up. She was sick. She didn't feel good, she felt keyed up and stuck.

She felt worried. She didn't know what to do, or how to make it better, and that always hit her hard. And with him, she needed not to care this much: this had to be a perpetual disconnect. Something she should be good at, only it was turning out to be a big failure in that regard. She rubbed her forehead in nerves. She swore it had to hurt.

“What you are doing is purely psychosomatic."

Claire jerked to attention, and beamed at Adam who was walking down the hall with much more confidence in this body. "I take it you have a plan," she said.

"I do." He hesitated. "I'm not sure how you'd feel about it."

"Doesn't matter how I feel about it," Claire said, kicking at his foot. "Let's hear it."

"One aspect of evolution is survival. This power wouldn't exist if not for the fact that there is a transfer into a healthy body."

"And so, if the body is unhealthy, like dead..." Claire began.

"If the body dies he's transfering into, he'd have to go to the only body alive within reasonable distance."

Claire nodded, as it was making sense. The plan played to their strengths. So that would mean...

"He'll have to want to transfer into you," Adam said slowly. Claire blinked. Okay, weird. She supposed a body thief wouldn't care as long as they could live forever. She didn't even know who the person was in the beginning except that they were quite the asshole. "It'll be because you scorned him."

"I did?" Claire asked, raising an eyebrow. "How was saying you're a dirty body thief scorning someone?"

"By saying they're a dirty bodythief," Adam answered, raising an eyebrow, "who you don't want to be around for eternity, let alone five minutes."

"Well--." Then she realized what the plan was. Her enthusiastic smile fell as strings holding it up had been cut.

“I see you’ve come to treasure immortality after all,” he said.

“Actually, it’s the thought of that body,” Claire said. “Ten minutes would pretty much be forever.”

“Thank you,” he said dryly. “I can’t go forward without you in this plan.”

“You could have,” she said. He could have just knocked her out and given the ultimatum to the body-switcher. He was still in a strange place in his head, she could tell. Time to fight. “That move would have been stupid of you, and I know you’re not stupid.”

That did it. “Not to forget the fact that duping you wouldn’t have been much of a challenge.”

“Tricking a seventeen year old wouldn’t be.”

“That’d be a cruel and unjust representation of seventeen year olds. I specifically meant you.”

She waited. The obvious retort was ‘okay to have me help though…’. But she let him have it. “Let’s go ahead and do this. You do your part, and I’ll do my part.”

“So, about the issue of you definitely doing your part-.”

“Come on, use that regenerative memory of yours. I stayed immortal when Arthur threatened us. I took it back willingly, that was how it worked.”

He looked away. “I haven’t forgotten. But that was then, this is now.”

“Just tell me what to do, Adam.”

“Something is wrong with this body," he said, avoiding her gaze.

Claire blinked at him, a clenching panic growing in her chest. She remembered how pain felt when she wasn't prepared for it. She had thought about trying to see a change in him from it, but now she didn't want to see it. She didn't know how to comfort him though. She had a real...inability for it. "All right, we'll have to hurry then."

He looked at her as if her words were more than enough. "I'll go speak to him, as if on the sly. Then we find some poison--and I did check, there's ample amount--and start to slowly kill you."

Claire couldn't help but smirk a bit. "As long as it's slowly. Better go talk to him."

"Do you want to watch through the camera screens?"

"No," she said. "Go on, and set your con in motion."

Making a pained expression at her choice of words, he walked away, and she was sure that he thought she was a huge idiot. She was on that page with him. There wasn't a way out of it. She was working instinctively, and so far, it had worked, and she hadn't gotten hurt.

Claire wanted to think she was fighting for something bigger than herself, but the reality was that she couldn't let anything happen to him, even at the risk of herself.

And she didn't want to think of that too much.

***

The stage was set.

He brought her this poison, something he was very happy to do, explaining the complexity of the formula.

"We discovered this one from a Special. She had the kiss of death. Guess who caught her?"

"You," she said, thinking that, naturally, since he couldn't die, he'd be the one.

"No, Bob," he said, and laughed. "I had to bring him back but I loved the look on his face."

"I'm more likely to imagine the look on her face."

He smiled at her. "You have no idea how right you are."

"I do, I met Bob, once upon a time," Claire said.

"My sympathies. Anyway, this beauty builds up poison in whomever drinks it. Then it goes straight to the lips, and then--instant death. What you do is-."

"Oh Adam," Claire said, catching on. She didn't want to complain. Because he was in the worst situation here. But god.

"I know it disgusts you-."

"It's not you! I mean, it's not you-you. That's the point," Claire said. He tilted his head. "No, that's not the point," she corrected. "I just don't like that guy."

"You'll live except when you're busy dying. At the last moment, he'll step up to you to swtich, and you grab him in desparation for a kiss. Of course, he won't change his mind or show you mercy. But he'll take the kiss."

Claire shook her head. "The less I know, the better. I just kiss him and kill your body, and he'll be forced to go into his original body."

"Precisely."

She motioned for him to give her the glass, and gave him a cheerful toast, and drank it. Yes, she was still not on her game and still an idiot. Check and check. They waited until he made her try and hold a glass. She dropped it and he caught it, quite nimbly for being in a body that wasn't his.

They were ready.

In the holding room, Claire pretended to be completely out of the loop (and maybe she was out of the loop, for all she knew), and Adam motioned for her to stand in front of the speaker, where the bodythief wouldn't see her face. She suspected it was that Adam didn't trust her ability to keep a straight face. Claire didn't mind, because she didn't trust her ability to do that either.

"Okay," she announced into the speaker. "This is how it's going to go. Either you switch back with him, or we poison you. I know you value your life enough to make the swap."

"You sound like you mean business," the bodythief answered back, and she could tell by his smug tone that Adam had set some kind of trap. Oh goody.

“Damn straight.” Then she winced. Adam looked at her. She held up one hand and covered the mic with her other. “I know. I’m aware.”

“Aware that you’ve lowered his defenses by showing innocence?” With that smile, even in another body.

“…Yeah, that," she said, a little encouraged. "So," she spoke into the mic. "Your time is officially up."

Adam elbowed her. "A little over the top there."

"Before anything else happens, shall we?"

He let her open the door. The room looked dangerous. Loose wires were hanging everywhere. "Be a dear and go check his bonds," Adam told her. "We should know if he's secure."

Claire took a deep breath and approached Adam's body on the floor, and noticed the tensing along his shoulders. Despite her doubt, she kept moving.

“I need some directions for this agent business,” she muttered to herself. She decided not to be a sneaky creep even though she’d live to regret not being a sneaky creep. Adam’s body’s head bobbed back and scared her slightly. Just slightly.

She bent down and reached for the ropes. The good thing about how he leapt to his feet and shoved her against the wall by her neck was that it wasn't hard to fake being surprised. His quickness did surprise her, and so was the cutting off of her air. She tried to move her head and almost got a face-full of loose wire.

"You do, sweetie, but look on the brightside. You won't have to worry about being special anymore soon," the creep said. "I decided I like your body better."

Time to...try and do her part. It was hard as she couldn't breath. She couldn't even open her mouth to say anything. Adam wasn't....he'd just...

"Let her speak," Adam said from the corner. "I want to see how she'll try to get out of it. It's always most amusing."

The creep grinned and loosened his hold.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I can see I made a mistake. You'd prefer me over him, trust me," she said. He scoffed. "Let me show you."

She leaned forward, eyes watering (from the poison...she could tell by how her vision was going dimmer and dimmer), and he, grinning, did as Adam said he would. He took the kiss, and she was glad her vision was just swimming. She could feel herself sinking, and sinking...He tried to pull away but she bit his lip and keep the kiss going--but why wasn't he dropping...

"That's not fast enough," Adam said, suddenly, and she knew it was at her. At her. She wasn'g dying fast enough. Something was pushing against her, inside her head--maybe this setup was all against her. Maybe not fast enough meant the bodyswitch wasn't fast enough. Then:

“Claire!” Adam yelled.

And that got her back on track. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw one last chance. The wire poking out from the fuse…she reached out and grabbed the wires, plunged her free hand deep within it.

She hoped Adam would have the sense to turn on the power switch, because she was being pushed in a way that was invading her entire body--her eye moved without her moving it-- but Adam figured it out.

He reached the console outside and flipped the switch, and a full blast of electricity fill her body and also filled Adam's body. The creep's face was all surprise. This would be one electrifying kiss. And it was: the jolt hit her hard and she knew it because her eye had literally popped out of her head. She could feel it, and desperately wanted to push it back into her head but her whole body was stuck in place, rigid.

After several minutes, the lights flickered out, one bulb with a pop, and her heart finally--it might have exploded, she wasn't sure anymore--and Adam's body pushed her away in the dark. To her relief, she could blink on her own accord. In the dark, she heard a scruffle and she struggled to her feet.

She could smell total death around her. The thing on her face--she didn't know for sure. Maybe the eye just hadn't healed yet. She crossed her arms and shuffled around in the dark--there was a click as the emergency generation went on, making everything red.

Adam was on the ground, kneeling by an unconcious creep, and her breath caught .

He turned towards her with a smile, relieved, but cocky, and that was him. She felt as if a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders, and she wanted to collapse in relief. She was so glad, so happy, happier than she had been in a long time. But she couldn't show it. And that made her feel burnt and tired but at least she felt something, even though she had to hide it for his sake. After what he had gone through, Claire was trying.

“You have something,” he said, motioning to his cheek. “Just there…do you want to borrow my handkerchief? You should always keep one on hand.”

“Thanks but I’m going to go find some napkins and a wastepaper basket. Do you have this covered?”

He nodded, and she went to move by him, covering her nasty eye—because that was gross, disgusting. The inside of her mouth tasted like rubber. She went to move past him, but he blocked her and cupped her cheek with his hands.

He looked into her (eye), apparently searching for something, and found it. It was strange that he touched her face even as gross as she was at the present moment. "You did beautifully."

Claire didn't expect her reaction at being told she did something pretty well, didn't expect the flood of feeling from absolutely nowhere. It was literally out of the blue. Her thoughts were getting blocked. A flash of something bright and clear and frankly a little terrifying filled her: "Um, this eye, it needs to be on ice."
"You're going to keep it? As in a souvenir?"
"I guess I won't for this one," she said, and his mouth formed a half laugh, half...gaping in amazement look. "Be right back."
Claire took care of her eye near a sink in a cell, as quickly as she could. It was inhuman as always but somehow, she was very afraid. She slashed water on her face, and the fear didn't go away as it normally did. She supposed it was from the fight and the trauma of recent weeks. Claire had thought she was holding up well.
She had to get back, and she took a deep breath and got it together again.
Someone else needed her to be at her best, and that was how it was going to be.
***

"You know," Adam mused outloud when she walked back into the room, "that was pretty clever."

"I have a natural talent on figuring out how to kill myself." He made a face at her. "Too soon?"

"Give me a hundred years, and maybe I'll laugh."

"Maybe not. Give me your sword."

“Give me the sword,” Claire said. He grimaced but still held some sort of smugness about him and threw it to her. She threw it back.

He caught it. Puzzled, he tilted his head. “And the point of that was?”

“You are old yourself again.”

“Fortunately for you,” he said, in an echo of her former encouragement.

"Yes," she said simply. Claire looked at the man bleeding on the floor. "We should heal him."

"A tad redundant, isn't it? To heal him only to end him."

Claire froze. "That's not necessary." It was now important to keep the standard that she had set. To prove something to him, but more to herself. She didn’t have to kill, and well--she thought her lack of corruption meant something to him. Didn't it?

"Exaclty, it's too easy," Claire argued. "It's too easy to just write him off. Don't you want something more challenging?"

“He can’t walk out of here. You do know that, don’t you?”

“No kidding,” Claire gripped, glaring at him. “You have to ask?”

“I wasn’t asking,” he argued. "You don't have a say in this."

"Yes, I do," she argued. "I'm a part of your plan working."

“What do you suggest? He can’t leave here. It was either this, or getting him stuck in the body of one of the vermin outside, and I thought that was over-the-top. I would have brought that to the table if I had known your preferences.”

“Is there some way to permanently block his power without killing him? Chemically-block it for good, that kind of thing.”

“No,” he said, with great emphasis. “If there’s no more interruptions, you can go around the corner

“I can erase his memory,” she whispered. “I know the person who can.”

He knelt beside her. “Let’s say we do. For a few years, it holds. What happens when he remembers what he can do?”

“He might be a better person then.”

“If you believe this to be true, why are your hands shaking?”

“I hate messing with people’s minds.”

“Is it corrupt to you?”

Claire glared with her answer. “It’s the worst thing you could do to somebody.”

“I have the solution,” Adam said. “If you don’t want him dead. He moves by palm touch and sight.”

He picked up the sword. “I’ll have to cauterize his wounds. As for speech, too, well…should I be very cautious and eliminate the second means of power transfer?”

Claire’s eyes widened. “You can’t just cut him to pieces.”

“What’s more important to your standards, mind or body?”

Mind, to her, but she… “Wait, wait,” she started.

“It’s not a decision for you to make yet. This only proves my point.”

“Let me find another answer! If you just give me five seconds.”

He sighed, and as he looked at her, she realized that he had uh, given her five seconds.

“When you’re in no place to make a decision, it’s only good etiquette that you bow out.” And he grabbed the back of her neck, touched another pressure point (that she didn’t know about) and dropped her.

She woke up two hours later in a cell. Claire paced back and forth, her anger starting to get the best of her, and when he appeared and unlocked the door—

He expected an attack. Claire was calm. She had…nothing to say.

“I have the right to defend myself,” he said, after awhile, waiting.

She walked up to him. He held the shield of smugness. She hugged him tightly.

“…What.”

“I’m glad you’re all right,” Claire said. He made a face of annoyance and…more annoyance, mixed with something else. Like she had thrown him a curve ball. This was how she knew it was Adam most of all, even more than the sword catching.

“I’m glad too.” He looked over her head. Not a terribly difficult thing to do.

She let go and went down the hall to check on the agent. She had to get her thoughts together. She knew this had happened—at all—because she didn’t act on her own instincts. But she wouldn’t go into ‘what if’s’. It’d be insulting the man’s life.

After thirty minutes of gathering herself in a lonely hallway, she checked her cell-phone and saw the long lists of messages from Peter.

He needed her. She had to go. She told Adam as much.

“A fine time for a family reunion.”

“Life doesn’t stop happening,” she said. “That much I know.”

“That’s a full quarter of the battle. How do we keep in contact?”

“I’m sure my new phone isn’t much better than the old phone.”

“Did your grandmother buy you the phone? And you’ve been here, where she wouldn't allow him to bug your phone. She wouldn't want to be caught in the lie either, at least until she had done what she had wanted.”

“…Yes, but that doesn’t make it completely safe. I’m not confident--.”

“Oh me neither. But now he’s only tracking calls received because that’s all he’s got at the moment. Give me your cell phone, and I’ll call Peter’s phone around noon tomorrow. Your father wouldn’t find anything suspicious about those calls.”

“Call Peter, why would you want to….oh come on.”

“You know he’ll loan you his phone. Always the white knight.” He held out his hand, and she gave him her phone. With great doubt and self-recrimination. “ Besides, you could use advice on how to deal with the three stooges.”

“First off, Peter is not a stooge. He might be the one who we end up counting on-.”

“That would technically make him a stooge."

“Secondly, I can handle my family on my own,” Claire said. Celebration time over. Back to reality.

“I thought I’m the only one you’d listen to.”

“I did listen to you,” Claire pointed out. He rolled his eyes. “People can do simple things like family without your help. Surprising as it is to you.”

“Sure they can. Just not as well.”

“That’s what being a family is all about, things not going as planned but still being okay,” Claire said.

“Claire. You brat,” he said, with some mockery of affection, she was sure, and before she could move, reached out and tugged on her hair. She stepped back, coolly (she was sure), not knowing what to make of it.

“I’ll be back when I can. You won’t get into too much trouble, right?”

“I never do. I only get into just enough trouble so I can get away with it.”

“Get away with it inside the building.”

“At this point, you couldn’t get rid of me. Things are just getting good.”

“You’ve got your definitions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ all mixed up.”

“When I say good, I mean fascinating. Bad, is boring. You’re good, for instance.”

“That’d be that ‘stooge’, Peter, as we both know.”

“He doesn’t have a choice but to be selfless and self-righteous. You, though, could be either the best or the worst of us."

“So—I rank higher, or am much more infamous, than you.”

He almost bit his lip off with that one. Would have been kind of interesting to see.

Claire stepped back. “Goodbye, Adam. Be as ‘bad’ as you can while I’m gone.”

“Claire.”

She looked over her shoulder at him.

“What happened to that louse wasn’t your fault.”

Claire smiled. “Oh, don’t worry. I know.”

Adam blinked in surprise and then laughed, shaking his head. “You’re very good. Then you won't mind terribly if I order an extra large pizza with your phone. He might get hungry after awhile."

Stopped her cold. "He's alive?"

"The hunger wouldn't be an issue if he wasn't."

She stared at him, wondering about him and his motives.

"I decided to take my time and see if he's useful. I'm beginning to already have a plan for him. He won't be trouble for now. I have him drugged to the eyeballs."

Oh. There he was. At least he was honest about it with her. She'd consider it twisted in that, she was glad about his honesty in this matter.

"Be careful anyway," she spoke without thinking. In order not to see any reaction from him, she didn't look back even when she felt his eyes on her the whole way.

***

The funeral was the next day. It was like they sped it up in a hurry to get it past them. Peter seemed like he wanted to hang on, but Nathan and….and Sylar. She realized, too, that the reality was sinking in.

Angela was gone. This was just the beginning of the people she would lose. She had a feeling there was more to Angela than met the eye, and in the solemn quiet of the gathering at the mansion, she started to feel the loss. She had one less thing to define herself by, one less person to know.

Some man in a nice suit come up to her, asking her simple questions about where the brothers were and so on. Finally, he got to what he wanted:

"How are you connected to the Petrellis?"

Claire saw Nathan in the middle of the room, and saw that he had heard, his head turning slightly that way.

"I had a job with Angela Petrelli."

"Finanaces? Law? Handling their stocks?"

Claire smiled brightly, and Nathan tensed. "Oh no. I'm just the errand girl. Excuse me."

She found Peter sitting outside, quiet and frail. Out of all the people in the world, she always wanted to protect Peter. He looked up at her with his eyes shining with tears, and she didn't say a word, but she moved to sit beside him. He put his head on her shoulder, and it felt odd, that she should be comforting him, that she should be his rock, but she was.

"I'm sorry, Peter," she told him.

"It's all right. I'm not sure if I am sorry. She's in a better place now," he replied. "She's been so tired. Had to be getting tired of it."

What exactly was it? Claire wasn't sure and she couldn't ask him now. They sat in comfortable silence, outside away from the crowd, and Claire almost forgot she was supposed to steal his cellphone. God. But Adam was forcing the issue.

She saw Nathan standing on the porch, looking their way. It made her feel awkward, in that this was the first time she had seen him alive after he had been reported dead (again). Her first instinct as always was to search for herself in his face, and sometimes she didn't know what to think about what she saw. Nathan obviously didn't feel as if he could come up to Peter with her there. It was never an easy transition, and he seemed to only be able to deal with either of them individually, not together. Claire could respect that, and his need to speak to Peter alone: it was their mother after all.

"Peter," she whispered. "Can I borrow your cell phone? I lost mine, and I don't want to tell my dad yet. He has a lot on his plate."

"Yeah, sure. Keep it as long as you like."

She nodded her thanks and carefully walked past Nathan on the porch. She went through it, keeping her head carefully blank. It was better not to think. She wandered through the halls, ducking around people and seeing pictures of the whole family together. She saw Arthur included, and suddenly a wave of guilt and pain so extreme washed over her that she had to dodge inside a small parlor room with a restroom off to the side. She thought she could be sick.

Actually, she was pretty sure she would be sick. She closed the restroom door. She didn't like hiding. For most of the hours, Claire had been around and present, unwilling to be intimidated. She had even seen Sylar dressed in a nicest suit of all of them, with Elle Bishop on his arm.

From a distance. But she didn't leave the room, they did. Not on her accord but probably because Nathan was giving a very potential Presidental death glare. Claire hadn't made trouble, because Peter would step up to the plate, and she didn't want anything to happen.

Claire looked at the cellphone and lowered the volume.

This was a very good thing. The phone rang from 'Claire' a minute later. Naturally, the temptation to call at a gathering honoring Angela's life would have been too much for him.

"Hello, you have reached the Federal Bureau of Investigation," she said in a deep voice. "Your time as an international terrorist is at an end."

There was silence.

"I'm kidding," she said.

"Claire, Claire, are you hiding in a corner somewhere all by yourself?"

"No, no. I just now...I've been out there for two hours. I needed some time to myself."

"You're depriving those poor souls of your presence," he said. "The gathering is definitely lacking now."

"I'm sure they miss the awkward tension."

He was quiet for a moment. "I'll take you to the best places, you know, when there's time. You deserve to have someone show you off."

"Did you go to...palaces and stuff for balls, when you lived in those times?"

He laughed. "I did," he said. "Nothing now can really compare. In fact, the experiences are entirely different. I wish you could have been there."

"Me too," she said.

"Maybe someday you will."

"Adam," she said. "I'm used to be maybe being a big fat never, but that promise is stretching the boundaries of good taste. I can live with the nice restaurant scenario."

"There are more than a few timetravelers around. I can always arrange something. When there's time."

"Time would be a factor," she said coyly, and she had cheered up. Even if he was just talking, she felt better.

"I'll go ahead and ask. How are you? You haven't stopped once, since this began."

Now how does he do that? Pull the rug right out from under her, right when she was getting comfoirtable. Only she was...complacent with sharing things like this with him. He seemed likely to understand, and that was what Claire wanted most, no matter who it was from.

"I can't stop to feel things. I'm not good with it. I'd rather be okay for other people. Now, I don't know how to feel except nothing, as best I can. If I really started, I'd just...stop."

She regretted saying it the moment it was out, but the silence was uncomfortable. It was somehow safe.

"I'm not fond of feelings myself," he said.

"Does they ever go away?" she asked, tentatively, hopefully. She was putting herself out there and bracing herself.

"Never. Not entirely," he said, as if he was talking more to himself.

"I'm Ms. Emotional, you know," she said. "That's not great."

"Your real feelings you bury," he said. "You should try to focus them. If you don't, they can build up on you. I'm not sure if this won't happen to you soon."

"For now, I'm all right," she said, "You'll be the first to know if I'm not."

"That's what I'm afraid of," he said, and she laughed, but had to cut it off when she heard footsteps. She ran the facet, and listened hard. She heard the last fateful statement from Nathan.

"I'm concerned about Claire's share of our parents' hobby," Nathan said. "I don't think it's appropriate--."

And that said it all. She placed the phone behind a vase, and turned off the faucet. Claire stepped out, with a surprised 'oh hey!' and she saw all three of them. Sylar. Nathan. Peter.

Peter.

She couldn't help but give Sylar a dark look. They trusted a killer more than her, yet again. "Wow, it got really unpleasant in here, so I'm going to need some fresh air."

Plus, she was being kicked out of the room. She smiled brightly--extra bright--and moved closer to the edge of the mirror, reaching for her purse. She placed the phone down, right underneath the fake plastic flowers. Without hanging up. If she didn't get to listen, then Claire figured someone should be able to listen. This was about the Company, and even if it was through Adam, she needed to know what was happening with that horror show.

Peter would get hurt if she didn't know. This, Claire knew above all things. Peter could not be hurt by her...his brother and Sylar.

She hated feelings because right now, all she felt was a deep painful sense of betrayal. But she wouldn't let this beat her.

This time, she'd focus her feelings.

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