“Oh, boy,” Peter muttered while he watched from afar as his niece pieced herself together again in front of the assembled press.
“You can say that again,” Gabriel agreed.
Peter turned to him. “You don’t care that she just...” He waved in the general direction of the hubbub.
“It was inevitable.” Gabriel shrugged. “We couldn’t have hidden forever, I guess.”
“There are going to be witch hunts again.”
Gabriel sighed. “In some form or other, yes, probably.” He paused. “But we are connected. We just... mustn’t turn against each other again.” He smiled sardonically.
Peter snorted. “Piece of cake, huh?”
Gabriel grinned. “Absolutely.” He tilted his head towards Claire. “It was always about that for her. We – our kind – we can live normal lives. But normal can’t mean being something we’re not.”
Peter looked at him for a long time. Then suddenly, he smiled. “You know... and don’t tell her that,” he quickly added the second part. “I guess...” He straightened some more, seriously looking at Gabriel. “You were right with what you told her. You do understand her.”
“You shouldn’t tell her that either.”
Peter chuckled, then frowned. “Noah really should get her out of there.”
Gabriel followed his line of sight to where Claire was now being swarmed by reporters. “Why is he just standing there?” he asked.
Just when Gabriel said that, Noah was leaping into action, pushing his way through the reporters, loudly demanding something that Gabriel and Peter couldn’t make out the exact words of.
“We have to...” Peter started, but then his phone rang.
“I can’t do anything, remember?” Gabriel reminded him, softly, not going into detail about what both Noah and Claire would do were they to see him.
Peter pulled a face and answered the call. “Hello?” The time he had spent in their nightmare was slowly catching up with him when he heard Gabriel’s soft reminder. He began to realise that he’d seen all those people only yesterday, maybe a day or two before that. It had not been years. Nobody had spent years with Gabriel, had watched him struggle, had watched both of them struggle.
Oh, man. How was he going to explain? Instinctively, he put a hand on Gabriel’s arm and held it in silent support, patting him twice.
Gabriel tilted his head to the side. “Angela?” he asked quietly.
Peter nodded and held up a hand. “What?” His eyes flew to the crowd and he frowned, listening. “How am I supposed to distract them and get Claire away at the same time?”
Gabriel’s dark eyes lit up in alarm. “Is something going to happen?” When his friend didn’t answer right away, Gabriel pulled at his arm. “Peter,” he hissed, urgently.
Peter shook his head, motioned him to wait again. He listened, and his eyes flickered to Gabriel. “Are you sure?” He sighed, then nodded decisively and closed his phone again.
Peter licked his lips. “I’m supposed to distract the press. You have to fly her out.”
“Are you nuts?” Gabriel blurted out. “Why don’t you fly her out?”
“Mom said one of them will recognise me.”
Gabriel shook his head, frantically. “So somebody else has to take her out of there. She won’t go with me, Peter, you know that!”
Peter grabbed both of Gabriel’s shoulders and stared at him. “We have to make her.” He nodded at him, hopefully. “Okay?”
“Shouldn’t... we wait for Emma?” He was grasping straws, now, and he knew it.
Peter smiled. “The ambulance took her to the hospital with some other people. Her fingers might need stitches.” He jerked his head towards Claire again, making his bangs fall in his face which gave him an even more boyish look than he usually had, and set off at a light jog.
Gabriel rolled his eyes and huffed. “This is going to be a right mess,” he grumbled but hurried after Peter anyway.
The upside of the crowd mingling around Claire and Noah (who was not very successfully trying to convince the press to leave his daughter alone) was that neither noticed the two men coming to their aid.
Just before they reached the steadily growing group of people, Peter turned to Gabriel. “You wait at the sidelines. The moment you get your chance, grab her and take her to my apartment.”
“That’s your big plan?”
Peter half-shrugged. “You know me. I’m not big with plans. Just... wait here.” With that, he pushed his way through.
“Enough!” Noah’s voice rang through the crowd. “No more questions for now!”
Peter struggled closer, could just make out Claire’s momentarily relieved eyes at seeing him, when the first reaction came from the reporters, just as his mother had predicted.
“Mister Petrelli! Mister Petrelli! Are you an eye witness? What is your connection to these people?” asked one reporter, quickly followed by others who either recognised the Petrelli brother as well or just assumed that the first one must have gotten it right.
Peter tried to channel every ounce of journalist-manipulating Petrelli blood he had in him, turned towards the person who had addressed him first and held up a finger. “Just one moment, please,” he said in a clear and (so he hoped) firm voice. “I will answer your questions in a moment.”
To his utmost surprise, the journalists actually complied, so he leaned closer to Claire and whispered: “Mom called. We need to get you out of here, now.”
For a moment, she looked indignant. “But I’m done with hiding!” she hissed back under her breath. “That’s what this was all about.”
“I know,” Peter conceded immediately. “The situation will escalate. You need to trust me and get out.”
Noah, who had been leaning close as well, snorted. “And how do you suppose we should do that?” He demonstratively eyed the crowd surrounding them.
This was the tricky part. Peter bit his lip. “I will distract them,” he said, leaned even closer and lowered his voice more. Only for Claire but not Noah to hear, he whispered: “Gabriel will fly you out.”
Claire frowned for a moment, until her eyes – as if they had been pulled by an invisible force that at the same time made sure that for the briefest of seconds nobody was in her line of sight – fell on a dark figure standing a short way away, widened and darted back to Peter.
Before she could panic, Peter gently but firmly took a hold of both her arms. “You don’t know everything that happened today. Trust me. You know you can.”
Claire’s shock was quickly replaced by anger. “If you think...”
“Please, Claire.” He didn’t wait for an answer, turned to face the journalists and with an unseen flicker of his fingers made a pole of one of the carnival attractions fall over loudly behind the crowd, making everyone swivel around and some of them scream.
Claire had just about the time to realise that this was supposed to be the distraction, when within the blink of an eye, two strong arms slung around her middle and lifted her up into the air.
Despite Peter’s assurance and despite her previous anger, she couldn’t stop the panic seeping into every pore at the speed of light, making her tense and instinctively try and push against the chest she was pressed to.
The arms holding her tightened. “Easy. I’m not letting you fall.”
Claire breathed harshly and much too quickly and tried to force the fear down. There wasn’t anything the man could do to her, she told herself. The last time she had seen him, only a day earlier, he had tried to talk to her, for Christ’s sake! She would just wait for the right moment and...
“You letting me fall is the least of my worries,” she gritted out.
“I know,” the infuriatingly calm voice replied.
Claire refused to look at him and instead looked down to see where they were. To her surprise, they were still hovering over the carnival, but high enough that it was unlikely for the people to see them.
“Why are we still here? I thought you were supposed to get away?” She spat the words out as if it physically hurt to keep them in.
“Just making sure Peter can deal with the situation.”
Claire blinked. There was something different in Sylar’s voice. Something... She tilted her head and looked at his face, after all. Not that she could make out all that much in the dark and way above the lights from the ground.
Suddenly, Sylar chuckled and sent all kinds of icy shivers over Claire’s back.
“They’re eating out of his hand,” he noted, satisfied. “I guess there’s some Petrelli in there, after all.”
They rose higher.
“Hold on,” he told her, and – if grudgingly and not really tightly – she did.
“Where are we going?” she wanted to know after a moment.
“Peter’s apartment,” Sylar answered, going in that general direction fast and finally hovering somewhere in the area, scanning the houses below.
“You know where that is?” she asked, surprised. Peter had said that she didn’t know what had happened that day, but it couldn’t have been all that much, could it? Did he make some kind of deal with Sylar?
“Yes,” was all he said. He didn’t think that telling her that it was Nathan’s memory and not his own would go over that well.
He landed on the fire escape right by one of Peter’s windows and held his hands up and away from her when she immediately pushed out of his hold, scowling at him. He quickly twisted his fingers, and the window snapped open.
She climbed in, but not without keeping her eyes on him much more than where she was going, making her stumble briefly.
He either didn’t notice or didn’t mention it and merely turned on the lights of the... apartment. He looked around. Somehow, he didn’t seem to remember that the emptiness was pretty much glaring at a person the moment they entered.
“Jesus, Peter,” he murmured and sighed, walking around and turning to all sides. “What is it with paranormals isolating themselves?” he demanded, more to himself than anything.
Claire angrily wanted to blurt out that he didn’t know what he was talking about, but then remembered the last time she had accused him of that... She took a deep breath instead and stalked over to a chair and plopped into it, silently admitting that being isolated probably was something Sylar knew well, what with him killing everyone in sight.
“What the hell were you doing at the carnival, anyway?” Since she felt she had to say something...
“Peter brought me,” Sylar answered, still looking around distractedly. “He had a premonition about me saving his friend Emma.” He turned to look at Claire. “She’s the one who was forced to lure people there with her cello,” he explained. “So that’s what I did. And before you accuse me of something that I actually didn’t do for a change,” he added quickly, “Doyle was the one who controlled her, and he’s alive and well.”
Claire tried to process that and failed. She wasn’t even sure which part made the least sense... She shook her head. “You... Peter. What? What are you even talking about?” Her anger came back by the second.
Sylar studied her for an uncomfortable moment, before he turned away, took off his coat and threw it over the back of a chair. “I’ll tell you what you want to know, but I’m going to raid the kitchen first. Excuse me.” Which was where he headed.
Claire jumped out of her chair and darted after him. “Hey! You can’t just walk off!” She grabbed him by the arm just as he entered the kitchen and pulled him around. “I think this time you owe me some answers!”
“Yes...” he agreed. “And I did say that you were going to get them, didn’t I?” He stuck his head in the fridge.
Claire remained standing open-mouthed. “So first you go emo and now... What’s this supposed to be? You’re channelling the Swedish chef?”
She was frozen in place at the genuine and loud laugh that answered her statement.
He peeked around the fridge door, smiling a smile that was even creepier than his most menacing stare, simply because it looked horribly out of place. “You hold the muppet chicken, and I convince it to lay an egg.” He made a step back and pushed the door closed. “That would be a step up from what’s in here. If he couldn’t heal, he’d probably die of malnourishment. At least there’s salad.”
He went on inspecting cupboards.
Claire, still looking frazzled in her dusty jacket, hair out of place and dirty face, stared at his back, incredulously. “I don’t believe this,” she mouthed inaudibly.
“Just stop it!” she finally yelled, which made him turn around to face her.
He held up a placating hand. “Claire, like I said, I will explain...”
“No! You will start explaining, now!” She threw up her hands, helplessly. “What the hell happened? What the hell happened that Peter blindly trusts you?” The pitch of her voice rose continuously, until it finally broke at the end of the sentence. “Jesus Christ, you murdered his brother! My father! You killed countless others! Sure, so maybe you tried to change or whatever, and we all know how well that turned out, don’t we, but that doesn’t change a single thing! Not one! I can’t even...” She either ran out of air or out of words, she didn’t know for sure which.
Sylar just looked at her calmly. “Alright. I’ll explain.”
Claire returned the look wildly, now suddenly interrupted in her thought process and unsure what to do with the emotions that unfortunately weren’t equally interrupted. She blindly reached for a kitchen chair and sat down.
Sylar rubbed his face. “Uh...” This could be fun; he had no idea where to begin and not make it sound... well, insane. “Do you remember when we last spoke?”
Claire sent him an ‘are you fucking serious?’ look. “That was yesterday.”
Sylar blinked and avoided her gaze for a moment. “This’ll take some getting used to...” he mumbled more to himself than her. Yesterday didn’t quite cut it for him, not even close.
“After our... talk...”
Claire snorted, narrowing his eyes at him, letting him know exactly what she thought of his wording.
Sylar just chuckled. The years in between veiled most of what had happened, made it a distant memory, a muddy moat of solitude parting his lives before and after. His imagination provided an alligator or two paddling around in it, a rusty and dilapidated old drawbridge having been his only way to get past it. And Peter... was less a knight in shining armour and more an eleven year old Harry Potter getting them both out by... accepting Gabriel as his friend. Or something. But his imagination might actually have been running a tad wild, there.
And now he was out of the prison and through the moat and arrived in a new world that knew nothing of his personal demons, aka castles and alligators. But moats aside, he did remember their talk.
“I went to Matt Parkman,” he said after a short pause. “I wanted him to take away all of my powers.”
“What?!” Claire shrieked, the word out before she could think about it.
Sylar looked at her, accusingly. “What are you so surprised about? It was your idea!” he protested.
“But that was...” Claire spluttered. “More metaphorical. You know. The thing that isn’t to take literally?” She raised an eyebrow. “More like an invitation to not let the powers consume you but do something about it?” She wanted to add an insult, but then remembered what had happened the day before when she called him a psychopath. She could go without kissing the guy for quite some time, no problem...
Sylar rolled his eyes and continued opening cupboards, finding one with a packet of spaghetti in it. “Anyway,” he said, looking for a pot, next. “I asked him to block them or something, which didn’t work.” He added water to the pot. “You hungry?”
“Suit yourself.” He didn’t turn to look at her and turned on the heat. “When his attempts failed,” he continued, “he put me in a coma, locked in my worst nightmare.” His voice was detached, clinical. He added salt to the water and looked for something to make a sauce.
Claire didn’t interrupt the silence for the longest time and let him work. She watched the eerie and unfamiliar view of Sylar being... normal. Cooking food, telling a weird story.
She had her own nightmares, she didn’t want to be reminded of the possibility of ever having to live them.
But her curiosity eventually got the better of her. “Nightmare?”
Sylar put both his hands on the counter and slumped his shoulders with his back to her. “I was in New York.”
Claire kept her quiet. She knew Sylar as the hunter, the predator. She had also seen him... contemplative, even confused. Never like this. It was... certainly satisfying, but also curiously frightening in an entirely different way.
Sylar sighed. “The city was empty.”
Claire’s breath hitched, and she was sure that the temperature in the room must have dropped. She didn’t have to ask for more information, not after their latest talk about not wanting to be alone and needing a friend and all that.
She could still see him draw their comparing chart – her on the left side and him on the right – and her imagination pictured him adding another similarity. A shared nightmare.
Great. Just great. Another thing she could have gone without him knowing.
“Can’t say you didn’t deserve it,” she mumbled quietly, knowing quite well that he heard.
Sylar chuckled. “Agreed.” He shook himself and got the salad he had found out of the fridge.
“Then you obviously left the dream again,” Claire noted.
“Yeah...” He rinsed the salad. “Like I said, Peter had a premonition about me saving Emma, so he... took Parkman’s telepathy and came in after me.” He peeked over his shoulder to see her reaction and snickered.
Claire propped her head on her hand and rubbed her face. “He went into your head,” she said, deadpan.
“Came in three hours after me.”
Three hours. Three hours in a nightmare. Claire was sure that she could have managed that.
“It took him a while to believe that it had been three years for me.”
Claire gasped and she could feel the drop of temperature again, only this time, it made her stand up from her seat. She felt trapped, constricted, lost, alone, cold. So cold.
“Whoa, Claire. Take it easy.” He turned to face her and held up both hands, careful not to move a single step closer.
Claire’s eyes darted to him wildly, mostly unseeing and couldn’t focus on the man for a heartbeat or two.
She wanted to smash something, wanted to... hurt, to feel. Instead, she took a deep breath and looked her nemesis square in the eyes. She wanted to dig into those dark depths; wanted to see how in God’s name he could still stand here after having been frozen in place for years, strangled by searing loneliness that was more than just a mere dream for both of them – it was a choking possibility, looming in their future.
Sylar smiled. He knew that she wanted to hear that he was okay, that he had survived his nightmare... even though she didn’t want him to be okay or alive in the first place. So he just finished his story.
“Granted, Peter wasn’t really much for company at first,” he smiled, crookedly. “But eventually, things changed.” He smirked. “Only took us five more years to get out, give or take; it got kinda hazy after a while…”
Two tears fell from Claire’s eyes like heavy raindrops, before she so much as noticed the burning sting. She rushed around her chair, making it scrape on the floor loudly and hurried out of the room, mumbling a choked, “excuse me,” before disappearing into the bathroom.
The moment the door was closed behind her, she broke down, sobbing, gasping for breath.
She didn’t know for how long she was cowering on the floor, her breathing unwilling to even out, the mere retelling of loneliness clawing at her heart in a way that didn’t feel at all as if her ability would be able to heal the damage it did.
She wanted… no. She needed herself to want Sylar locked in a nightmare like that. She knew with every part of her mind that he deserved it a dozen times over, and that three years of solitude weren’t nearly enough. Unfortunately for her, she couldn’t make herself want that. Not for anyone. Particularly not for someone who was as afraid of being alone as she was.
She also didn’t want to be glad for Peter to break the dream, the loneliness, the prison. She didn’t.
… Then why was she anyway?
A choked laugh finally escaped her when her mental chalkboard now had the terms adopted, abandoned, immortal, nightmare as well as the newly added Peter listed on the left, all of which were marked with a flourishly scribbled check on the right.
She granted herself another minute to calm her breathing, unwilling to show Sylar just how much his little speech had affected her. She didn’t really believe that he didn’t know anyway, but that didn’t mean she wanted to give him the satisfaction and look as rattled as she was.
She took off her dusty black coat, surprised to find that her shirt was actually still coral pink and not too dirty apart from some specks of blood… She sniffed and washed and rubbed her face, traces of tears and dirt disappearing. Then she pulled her hair into a fresh pony tail and left the bathroom.
Hopefully, their shared, personal hero would get there sooner rather than later. She didn’t know what to do with that weird guy in the kitchen, whom she wasn’t sure she knew anymore. She was in a constant state between complete shellshock and ingrained alert, both pulling at two very different sides of her.
She cooled her expression into something as neutral as she could manage and entered the kitchen again. Damn. The bastard had somehow whipped up a tomato sauce and it smelled delicious.
She cleared her throat, letting him know that she was back and sat down. “Sorry about that. Long day,” she mumbled.
“I bet,” came the noncommittal answer, and a small bowl with salad and a plate with pasta were telekinetically placed in front of her with cutlery, while Sylar sat down across from her with his own.
She scowled at him. “I told you I wasn’t hungry,” she lied, hoping that her traitorous stomach wouldn’t grumble just then.
Sylar just looked at her, smirking. “That was a lie before, and it didn’t get any truer since then…” His expression softened at her accusing as well as conflicted stare. “Just eat it. Like you said… it was a long day.”
With that, he started eating and made sure he kept his eyes firmly on his food, not pressuring her with looks or more words. His lips might have twitched a bit when Claire moved to eat her late dinner.
“So…” he said after a while. “What happened during your long day?”
Claire snorted, twisting spaghetti with her fork. “My day wasn’t quite as long as yours.”
This made him almost choke on his own mouthful, since he was trying to laugh and swallow at the same time. He managed both without spraying the table with his food, eventually, however.
“Sorry,” he said, covering his still grinning mouth, and went to get napkins (just in case) and two glasses of water that he had forgotten earlier.
She looked at him very oddly when he sat back down. “How am supposed to deal with…” she waved his hand at him, “… you being all… normal?” She emphasised normal as if it was the furthest from normal she could imagine.
“Beats me. How do you think I feel? I mean, dealing with my ability was certainly the most prominent change for me, but after the last eight years, the world feels strangely… populated.”
Claire snorted. “It is that,” she said, sarcastically.
Sylar grinned. “Luckily for you, you don’t have to deal with me. We’re just waiting for Peter.”
“So you guys are friends now?” she asked, not sounding quite as incredulous as she felt. She sounded… miffed.
Sylar shrugged uncomfortably. “He’s all I have,” he answered truthfully. “And he trusts me.” A slight smile grew on his face, as if he couldn’t really believe it. Couldn’t believe that anyone would trust him, and couldn’t believe that he had managed to become someone trustworthy.
Breathing came so much easier without the lethal urges pulling at his leash, and Peter had been there to witness the change. “Trusts me with you, I might add…”
Claire’s jaw set. “I noticed,” she forced out.
Sylar looked up. “Claire… don’t think that you mean little to him because of that. That’s not how it is.”
Claire just nodded, unwilling to answer anything to that. She had a hard enough time to take it all in.
“So!” Sylar apparently changed the topic. “You were saying about your day.”
Claire raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t actually saying anything,” she pointed out. When Sylar merely shovelled another forkful of pasta into his mouth, she sighed. “Well, for one, I got buried alive with my dad in a trailer,” she said, mock-cheerfully. “Tracy had to swim us out.”
Sylar chuckled. “Sounds like fun.”
Claire was really glad that she was terribly hungry, or she probably couldn’t have eaten after thinking about that. “And I don’t even know if that was worse or better than the part where I had to look at my father’s memories.” She angrily twisted her fork in the spaghetti, unsure of whom or what exactly she was angry at.
Sylar’s chewing slowed, but eventually, he swallowed anyway. “You went to the mirror maze?” he asked, a really unpleasant memory tugging at his brain. A memory that wasn’t exactly his, per se, but he remembered it anyway.
Claire looked at him suspiciously. “You went in there? What for?”
Sylar nervously licked his lips. “It wasn’t exactly… me me.” He looked up at her from a downturned face.
Her eyes narrowed. “Nathan.”
“Well, yes and no.” He rubbed his forehead, trying to remember. “I… think someone shot him. Nathan, I mean. And he died.” His eyes gained a distant look. “Then, thanks to, well, you, he woke up in the forest somewhere but couldn’t remember anything.” He shook his head, slowly. “Anything at all.”
“Just how often was that man killed?” Claire blurted out.
Sylar huffed. “You should ask Peter sometime…” He shook his head. “Or maybe not… Anyway.” He cleared his throat. “He found his way to the carnival and they wanted to give him back his memory that way.” He sipped his water before he continued. “But since it was this brain,” he tapped his temple, “guess what memories those were…”
Claire blanched. “Oh, God.”
“Yeah. Those.” He blinked as he tried to force his brain to remember. “I think… it was also kind of… me without a memory. I remember hearing watches. Knowing that they were off…” He shook his head. “Whoever it was, he was completely innocent.”
Claire still twisted her fork, but more slowly. She imagined a little boy Sylar undoubtedly would have to have been at some point, and thought about how he would react to knowing what he would do in his future… She bit her lips and stopped the thought before it could go any further.
“Watches?” she asked instead. As good a question as any.
Sylar was startled back into the here and now, although it took him a few seconds. “Oh. I… used to restore timepieces.” He shrugged. “Or, I guess, I could still do that. I did during the nightmare.”
Claire blinked. Then blinked some more. Sylar fixing watches was another weird image. Why didn’t crazy serial killers do things that would make them easier to spot? Like torture puppies or grow poisonous plants in their back yard or hook up stray kids to lightning rods? Did he have to cook pasta and fix watches?
“I’m sure it passes the time,” she finally says. “It sounds… very interesting, actually.”
For a brief moment, Sylar’s eyes lit up. “It is.”
Claire caught the moment, anyway, but averted her eyes as soon as they made contact.
Sylar cleared his throat. “I’m not going to pry… but since you’re not sure which part of your day was worse, I’m guessing the memories you saw weren’t exactly pleasant, either.”
“No,” Claire answered curtly, very obviously unwilling to give more information on the subject. She knew all too well that Sylar would probably cheer at Noah’s numerous lies and deceptions.
“But it didn’t matter, anyway,” she said, firmly, instead.
Sylar nodded slowly and his lip twitched in a tiny, sardonic smile. “Daddy’s girl.”
Claire threw her fork loudly onto the table. “You know, it’s none of your damn business, Sylar! So, yeah, he did some bad stuff, but he’s still my dad, and he…”
“Claire,” Sylar interrupted, holding up a hand, his expression full of pain. “I’m not… accusing you of anything. I’m envious, really. I never had anyone as forgiving as you, and I never had anyone I deemed worthy of as much forgiveness as you give your father. And I never understood why you would…” He sighed, softly, returning to his meal. “Now I have Peter, and I do understand, Claire.”
Claire watched him eat for bit, then ate for a few minutes herself, before she had to ask. “How did you get this way?” She shook her head. “Not this way, obviously. I mean you. Sylar. Whatever. You know.”
She rolled her eyes. This was silly. He was Sylar, after all. But apparently Sylar was someone who never had anyone, and then he must have lost it or something. She wasn’t even really sure why she asked, but something in the tone of his voice didn’t sound like it had always been the way she had known him. Or maybe she was losing it, slowly, too. Not an entirely impossible scenario.
But for her, quiet and loneliness went hand in hand and were equally unbearable.
Sylar kept his eyes firmly on his food. “I don’t think you want to hear that.”
Claire snorted. Figured. Of course he would keep the most gruelling parts to himself. Wouldn’t want anyone to know just how twisted he truly was. Her imagination tried to fill in the blanks of what would have to be even worse than what she already knew, and it wasn’t exactly pleasant.
“Fine,” she bit out. “Keep the monster to yourself, then.”
His head shot up, his dark eyes catching hers, and she almost gasped at the intensity.
“I really don’t think you want to know,” he almost growled. “We’re not talking about my monster, here.”
Claire huffed. “What? You’re gonna blame that one on my dad, too?”
Sylar took a deep breath, forcing down his anger. Forgiveness was a wonderful thing, but it also meant that Claire would never believe him anyway. He put his bowl in his plate and the fork with it and stood, carrying it to the sink. “You done?” he asked.
“No, actually, I’m not done!” Claire was now just as angry. “You think you can make some cryptic comments to drive a wedge between me and my dad? It’s not gonna work!”
Sylar put his plate into the sink with a little more force than necessary, making the fork rattle. “That’s not what I’m saying.”
Sylar swivelled around. “He made me, okay?!” He stared her down, watching her flinch at his tone. “He made me, and then he let me run loose!”
“What are you talking about?” she demanded, her voice hoarse.
“I would have been dead,” he stated and then paused. “After my first victim, I would have killed myself because I couldn’t live with what I’d done. He and Elle saved me, manipulated me, poked me and pushed me and then shoved another Special at me to see if I would do it again,” his voice broke and his eyes watered. “Only so that he could watch how exactly I… extract powers.”
Claire shook her head.
“He watched, Claire, and then they let me go.”
Claire wanted to say that he must be lying, wanted to yell it out. Then again… she might have forgiven her father, but she couldn’t in all seriousness say that she trusted him. Particularly the Company man he used to be. Or still was, for all she knew.
“Why the hell would he do that?” she asked, instead.
Sylar rubbed his eyes, angrily. “Which part?”
Claire bit her lip. Yes, she had to admit that she could see her father watching someone like Sylar kill to know how he did it. She knew that the Company must have done things like that… on several occasions and in several different ways. Ways that she didn’t want to think about.
“Why would he let you go? Why not bag and tag you?”
Sylar sighed and let himself slump back into his chair, defeated, shaking his head. “I have thought about that. I mean, I was right there. They could have caught me and brought me in, it wasn’t like I would have been in a state to do much of anything, anymore.” He took a deep breath. “The only answer I could come up with and that made sense was…” He stared into the middle distance.
“You’re not going to like this…”
“Cut the crap, Sylar!”
Sylar scratched at the table with a fingernail. “Would it hurt you terribly to call me Gabriel?” he asked, quietly.
“Answer the question.” This would have to do for now. She didn’t want to call the man anything, really, much less did she have a preference. Still… Gabriel insinuated…
“Oh, fine!” He huffed. “I think the Company wanted me to acquire more abilities because that would make me a more interesting test subject.”
He had been right. She didn’t like it. She also had to admit that…
“It makes sense,” she said.
Sylar crossed his arms, in a gesture somewhere between hugging himself and shielding himself from the past. “You know that the Company really fucked you over when even the likes of you aren’t surprised at something like this anymore.”
Claire snorted. “Yeah, I guess.”
They both remained silent for a long moment. Claire contemplated confirming Sylar’s story with her father, later. Sure, Noah could lie, but she was fairly certain that he couldn’t keep a straight face when she just threw something like this at him.
She blinked in surprise when she realised that even in her mind, she accused Noah of lying before Sylar.
“I’m sorry,” she said, then decided that something was still missing. “I’m sorry, Gabriel.”
Gabriel half-shrugged. “You didn’t do anything.”
Claire nodded, neither looking at the other, anymore.
“And we both know how little being sorry changes,” he added. He didn’t sound accusing, just sad, resigned.
Claire nodded again. “I guess.”
“I’m sorry, anyway.”
Something in Claire’s stomach twisted. He was right. It didn’t change anything, and it made her want to hit him until he found a way to change the things he had done. Until he made her feel better, made her get back what she had lost.
It didn’t help that taking Noah out of the picture, years back, would have changed everything in the first place.
“Poetic justice, don’t you think?” Claire said after a long pause.
Gabriel frowned at her. “What is?”
Claire smirked, darkly, the twist in her stomach still painful but somehow more bearable. “If what you told me is true, it’s kind of fitting that you went after his daughter.”
“Claire, no,” Gabriel said immediately. “You didn’t deserve what I did to you.”
Her eyes darted to his. “But he did.”
Gabriel just stared at her, dumfounded. “You know… huh,” he said after a long while, shaking his head incredulously, “just because I’m turning over a new leaf here doesn’t mean you have to suddenly prove that you have a dark side to you.” He smirked, half-heartedly. “I already knew that, anyway.”
Claire snorted a laugh that she couldn’t quite contain. “I don’t hear you arguing my point,” she said, crossing her arms, now, too.
Gabriel’s amused expression slowly faded. “I can’t.” He held her gaze for nearly a minute, the ticking of the kitchen clock resounding loudly. “I know you don’t believe me…” he said, lowering his head and looking at the tabletop, “but I can’t even begin to tell you about the pain I feel because of what I did. And if I… if I have to live with the guilt, I don’t see why he shouldn’t.”
Claire couldn’t argue with that. “He does feel guilty, I think,” she mused. “But then he starts on how the things he did are in the past, only to turn around and do something again, anyway. How am I supposed to know what actually is in the past and what isn’t?” She scowled at him, annoyed. “And why the hell am I telling you this?”
He chuckled and shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe because despite the things I did, I never lied to you.”
Claire rolled her eyes. “I’d really like to say that you sawing open my skull,” she paused for long enough to enjoy his painful expression at that, “hurt more than dad’s lies and betrayals…” She didn’t finish the sentence, and he gracefully didn’t either.
Instead, he contemplatively tilted his head. “If it’s any consolation at all… When the Company did have me and experimented on me… the term 'excruciating pain' comes to mind.”
Yes, that felt satisfying, Claire thought, but didn’t say it out loud. Another thought crossed her mind, though. “Did you come after me to get back at him?”
“No. He pissed me off, and I knew that he was terrified of me going after you, which kind of was a bonus, I guess, but… No. I just wanted your power.”
Claire half-shrugged. “I guess it’s ‘the power to have’ and all that,” she said, cynically. Her jaw set. “I know why my dad was so hell-bent on keeping our abilities a secret. There are bound to be others. Other institutions or governments or others like… Sylar.” She peeked at him from a downturned face and noticed something that looked an awful lot like hope in his expression at her using his pseudonym in the third person. “Anyway. They might try to get to me too, eventually,” she grudgingly admitted. “Or to you. Or to anyone else they deem interesting enough.”
Gabriel nodded. “Most likely, yes. We will have to keep a careful watch on things, from now on. Take our destiny in our own hands.” He tilted his head. “Starting with using what Peter and Noah can learn about the current situation.”
Claire sighed as she realised that, at least for the time being, hiding would still be a part of her life. Peter would chew her ear off, she knew.
“But…” Gabriel added, “you were right too, we can’t hide forever. It’s evolution. There are going to be more of us, a lot more as time passes, I’m sure.”
Claire cleared her throat. “And I guess you and I will still be around to see it,” she said, deliberately nonchalantly, her eyes flickering to him, before they stared at the table again, as they had most of the discussion. They would more than likely be around. It was just a simple fact. But for how long would anyone else be around…? Would Peter make use of the possibility? Would someone else with her ability cross their path? Or would it be her and… the watchmaker… against the expiration of time itself?
Her eyes lost their focus. “Why do people think immortality is such a great thing?”
“I used to think so, too. I have… since had some doubts.”
“Hence the nightmare,” Claire concluded, and Gabriel nodded and took a shuddering breath.
“I’ve come to realise that eternity sounds less threatening when one is not alone and has a purpose. Not that either is all that easy to find, at least not for me.”
Claire huffed. “Difficult enough for anyone, but, yeah, I guess it would be doubly so for you.” And she couldn’t help but think that he deserved the added difficulty, even if she couldn’t make herself wish the nothing he had experienced on him.
They remained silent until the ticking that Claire couldn’t help but hear ever since they had been talking about timepieces drove her out of her chair (before it could drive her crazy). She stood, took her plate, bowl and fork and moved to wash both their dishes.
Gabriel just blinked at her back.
“Tell me about the nightmare,” Claire demanded, working mostly to keep her hands busy.
Gabriel leaned back in his chair. “What do you want me to say? The city was empty. No people, no animals, no TV, no music. Just books and clocks.”
“No, I mean. With Peter. Tell me about Peter.” Peter was safe. Peter made sense.
Had Claire not had her back turned, she would have seen the first genuine smile on his face that was ever directed at her.
It had taken Noah and Peter very nearly a full hour of answering questions by mostly evading them. The media had had to make do with the explanation of the existence of certain abilities, but were blatantly lied to when it came to the current status of knowledge and/or research on the topic.
Meaning, they were told that it was an incredibly new (well, new of course was a relative term – and in comparison to, say, the complete human history, half a century could still be considered recent) discovery, and that of course everything was being done to aid the persons in question should they wish it (ignoring the fact that there always was the danger of someone being unable to cope with abilities that were a potential threat to both themselves and others – Samuel was a story for another day, or no day at all, if Noah could help it).
So, well, they were not exactly lies. Lies of omission, maybe?
After that hour, Hiro had inconspicuously directed them away from the crowd and then transported them to the site where he had brought the former inhabitants of the carnival.
Peter then helped calming and organising them into groups, while Noah directed the newly roused Company to aid for a change.
Noah wasn’t sure what to make of the new situation. Claire had opened quite the can of worms, but on the other hand, that meant that the Company couldn’t go on in the ways it had before, something that Noah was now self-aware of enough to appreciate. Some of the orders he had followed blindly in his time were… not something he allowed himself to think about.
It took him another hour and an off-handed remark made by Hiro to realise something.
“No, no. It was not me who teleported the cheerleader, but Peter Petrelli said that she was safe,” Hiro said, before being bustled away again.
Noah stared after him. If it hadn’t been Hiro… Who…?
His eyes darted around the people, searching for Peter. When he finally found him, after walking around for maybe five or ten minutes, his anxiousness rising by the second, the man was putting his paramedical training to good use, smiling at a young girl with some minor bruises.
“Peter,” Noah said urgently, the moment he was beside him and put his hand on Peter’s shoulder.
Peter stood with one last reassuring smile to the girl. “Noah? Something the matter?”
“Where is Claire?”
Peter blinked. Uh-oh. “She’s at my apartment. I told you,” he said as calmly as he could.
“Who brought her there?”
“… A friend. She’s safe, trust me.”
Noah could feel his heartbeat accelerate and adrenalin start pumping through his veins. He kept his voice deliberately cool, which gave the man an eerie air of control (which was probably the intention).
“Peter, the speed at which she was brought away leaves very little options,” he said intently. “The speedster is dead, Hiro didn’t teleport her, and apart from you, I know of only one other person who can fly and who isn’t dead.”
Peter straightened, his expression hard. “You don’t have all the information,” he said, firmly.
Noah looked around, making sure they were not overheard. “You mean there’s another Special? One that you apparently trust enough even though nobody knows about them?”
Peter took a deep breath. “No. You don’t have all the information about Gabriel.”
Noah felt as if a bucket of ice-water had been dumped over him. “No…” he breathed.
Peter bit his lip, nervously and put steadying hands on both of Noah’s shoulders. “Listen very carefully, Noah. Claire is safe.” Noah tried to step back from him, but Peter made sure telekinetically that he would remain where he was. “Gabriel is my closest and dearest friend, and you do not have the necessary information,” he repeated.
“Let go of me,” Noah gritted, but when Peter did, he didn’t move away. “Not the necessary information? I have every piece of information that is to have on that murdering psychopath…”
“Except for the last eight years,” Peter interrupted, intently.
Noah frowned, puzzled. “What are you talking about?”
Peter shrugged. “Let’s just say… that between yesterday and today, eight years passed for him and five for me.”
Noah knew better than to question such temporal anomalies, but that didn’t really make him feel better.
“And Claire couldn’t be any safer than where she is now,” Peter added, then took a deep breath. “Now, we need to wrap up this situation here, before it blows up any more than it already has if we want to keep her safe, and you know it.”
With that, Peter turned around and stalked away. There was still a lot to do, even if they’d only be able to cover the basics for now.
Noah stared after him, torn between wanting to run off to Peter’s apartment and knowing that the man was right. And he’d rather be part of whatever new structures the old Company would get, even if he had no idea what those structures were supposed to be in this new game he knew nothing of.
Claire sat on Peter’s bed – since he didn’t have a couch – and zapped through a number of TV channels, one less captivating than the other. She had never been one to watch mindless TV, but the situation at hand (namely the current questionable company she was in) might have had something to do with the fact that she had a hard time doing anything mindless.
“There’s only one container left, I’m gonna have to put it in two bowls,” came the voice from the kitchen.
Claire rolled her eyes. “Just bring the damn thing with two spoons!” she yelled her answer. “Jesus, you had your fingers in my brain and worry about sharing ice cream?”
Gabriel came trotting into the room, his own spoon already in his mouth. He handed her the container and her spoon and flopped down next to her. “Would have been for your benefit, not mine,” he said.
Claire flinched at the jerk the bed gave when he sat down, but she forced the feeling down and tried the ice cream instead.
“Why are we watching this?” Gabriel asked, sending the TV an incredulous look, as if that would make the talk show participants who were in the middle of a currently very... argumentative... dialogue make more sense and less bleep.
Claire nodded towards the abandoned remote control on the mattress beside her. “Got distracted by ice cream.”
They kept watching the two families verbally rip each other to pieces, though not in a very eloquent way, in various shades of amusement.
When it came to the teenage daughter yelling, “Why don’t you bleep shove your stupid bleep apology up your bleep, you bleep bleep face?! Bleep!” they couldn’t help it and both laughed.
Claire caught herself after only a second, remembering quite vividly why she was not supposed to sit on a bed and laugh with the man who had done her wrong in so many ways.
It was just… in some moments, she almost forgot their past, and being with him felt familiar and right like a long lost memory or a story she had heard sometime when she was little.
And then reality came crashing down on her, a reality, in which he had violated her, killed her birth parents, threatened and killed so many more… She didn’t know what to do with the voice in the back of her head that pulled at her, telling her that this was not the same person. That the person she had known had come into existence because of someone she had already forgiven, multiple times.
But even if she were – hypothetically, of course – to accept that the man had changed, as he claimed (and as he claimed that Peter agreed with), who was he?
Gabriel didn’t appear to notice her sudden quiet and continued to smirk at the TV, eating his ice cream.
She looked at him from the side, puzzled. “Were you like this, before?” she surprised herself asking.
He turned the spoon in his mouth upside down in his mouth as he did sometimes, slowly pulled it out and turned to look at her. He pondered that for a second. “Like what? Not running around killing people?”
Claire rolled her eyes and waved her hand at him, vaguely. “Like this. Normal. Talking without adding any insane innuendo. Cooking. Eating… ice cream…” She didn’t really know why the ice cream disturbed her, probably for the same reason seeing him cook pasta was weirdly out of character, no matter how much sense it made that the man – murdering tendencies notwithstanding – had to eat. “Being… nice,” that word was particularly hard to say out loud, but, well, Gabriel had been, for lack of a better word, nice to her. “Mildly entertaining.”
Gabriel snickered. “You think I’m funny?”
Claire stared at the TV with much more intent than she actually gave the talk show. “Shut up.”
Gabriel just smiled. “Was the watchmaker funny?” he mused to himself. “No, I can’t say that I was.” His eyes lost focus, like they had done so many times that night. “I was…” He snorted. “You wouldn’t have noticed me, cheerleader.” He looked at her sideways, vaguely amused that she allowed herself to squint at him without turning her head. “I was… mild, polite, introverted, insecure, and basically and all around harmless.”
And then his power had manifested and Noah had made use of that, Claire added in her head. “So being a serial killer makes you less insecure?” she asked, making Gabriel snort.
“Well, being all-powerful and all that does, yes.” He lowered his head and absently twirled his spoon. “Then, when you’re really lucky and wake up from that power trip that does its damnedest to keep a hold of you, it’s something else.” He blinked at the reflection on the cold metal in his hand, not even noticing that Claire had fully turned her head to look at him. “I guess, now, I’m neither insecure nor overconfident, I’m… self-aware.” He said the last word as if it had revealed something to him, something he hadn’t thought of up until then.
He turned his head to look at her, a serene expression on his face. “I know now who I am.”
Claire returned the look with a… well, she guessed it was an understanding one of her own. Then, angry at herself for being lenient, angry at him out of too many reasons to count and angry at the universe at large, she dug her spoon back into the ice cream and grumbled, “And you couldn’t have figured that out, earlier?”
“Why didn’t you tell me that before!” screeched a man on TV, making them both startle and stare at the show, before Gabriel chuckled, again.
“Can you imagine us on a show like that? You and your dad on one side, me on the other?” he asked, amused. “And they think they have problems…”
“I can bleep with the best of them,” she blurted out. Now definitely angry at herself for that companionable slip-up, she reached for the remote, but before she could switch, Gabriel interrupted her.
“What are you doing? This was fun, in a completely stupid way…”
Claire gripped the remote, tightly. “Well, maybe I don’t want to be funny with you!” she gritted out.
Gabriel looked at her for a moment, before nodding once and averting his eyes. “Fair enough,” he agreed.
“Your stupid bleep is giving me a headache!” the teenage girl yelled at who was presumably her father.
“You don’t know the meaning of the word,” Claire said at the screen and huffed in amusement that she felt rightfully entitled to and tossed the remote onto the mattress again.
Gabriel couldn’t help but feel as if he had just accomplished something. “Thank you,” he said, quietly.
Claire kept her eyes on the screen. She knew damn well he didn’t thank her for letting them both watch some stupid talk show, but she wasn’t ready to acknowledge what it meant, nor did she actually know what it was in the first place.
“You’re welcome,” she finally settled with.
After that, they silently sat side by side, eating their dessert and watching the mind-numbing silliness that was the talk show, only the occasional snicker or giggle escaping them.
Claire lost herself in thoughts very soon though. By all accounts, she should have been terrified, and she had every reason to hate the man by her side. Except... she wasn’t terrified, and the anger had started making way to confusion the day before when Sylar had “dropped by” to draw weird comparisons and talking to her in a supply closet.
Certainly, he behaved much differently, and Peter had made clear just how much he trusted the man. But it was more than that, he... felt different, for lack of a better word.
Claire had on several occasions noticed how Specials seemed to be drawn to each other. It was just something that happened. Like an invisible pull... And she knew Sylar’s pull quite well. This was... different. It didn’t change the past, but it made her gradually relax, make small concessions, like eating his pasta and talking to him and not switching channels.
It made her look at the still screeching teenager on screen and say, “Do you think if I wore my cheerleader uniform to one of those shows and yelled at you for opening my skull in every gory detail it would make some of them pass out?”
Gabriel choked on his mouthful of ice cream, before he started laughing. “Sorry...” he said, not sounding all that sorry for a change. “The image of you and your dad yelling at me, the audience running like mad for the emergency exits, and the host just standing there like the idiot he obviously is...” He snickered and wiggled his spoon at her. “’Cause your dad would definitely join in. With his gun,” he added the last part after a small pause for effect.
Claire couldn’t help it, she giggled. “He would probably shoot you. Several times.”
Gabriel smirked. “Goddammit, Noah, you know blood stains are a bitch to wash out!” he said, playing along.
“Never mind the holes.”
Gabriel snorted and sobered a bit. “I really shouldn’t joke about this.”
Claire just shrugged. “Well, I have every right to joke about it,” she stated, firmly. “And who am I going to joke with? My dad?”
Gabriel raised an eyebrow at her. “If you do, I’m putting you on laundry duty, because you just know he’ll come shooting me some more every time you joke to him about this.”
She couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing.
“Claire!” suddenly came the voice from the other room, and even though they couldn’t see the person belonging to it just yet, they both immediately thought of the gun they had just been joking about.
“Brace for impact,” Gabriel muttered under his breath, making Claire snort.
“In here, dad,” she called out.
Noah darted towards the open glass door and froze in place, not saying a word, the wind effectively knocked out of him by the mere picture that was presented to him. He tried to say her name, again, but he couldn’t get a single sound to pass by the knot in his throat.
Claire did feel bad for a bit. She was sure that seeing her and Sylar sitting on a bed and eating ice cream was not what her father had been expecting. Hell, it was certainly not what she had been expecting, some hours ago. But since she and Gabriel weren’t nearly as chummy as they might have looked just then, she didn’t feel too bad, and Noah deserved being shaken a little.
Nevertheless, she was taut as a string, waiting for some sort of breakout.
Peter appeared behind Noah’s shoulder and immediately grinned, more than a bit relieved. Hiro peeked around the both of them, blinking and uttering a small “oh”.
Gabriel was the one to break the silence. “You need a couch,” he informed Peter.
Noah’s expression of sheer horror reminded Claire of her reaction to seeing Gabriel perform menial tasks in the kitchen, and her string snapped, making her giggle. The latter didn’t really improve Noah’s shocked state, so she thrust the now empty container into Gabriel’s hands along with her spoon and moved to get up. He helpfully swung his legs to the side, so she wouldn’t have to climb over them.
“I wasn’t exactly expecting guests,” Peter defended himself to Gabriel, while he watched as Claire went to hug her father.
The contact seemed to unfreeze Noah, and he crushed his little girl close. “Are you okay?” he asked, his heart pounding blood through him almost painfully.
“I’m fine,” she said, quietly. She wasn’t even lying. She was fine. Confused, but ultimately fine.
Noah, being Noah, couldn’t keep his attention away from the man still sitting on the bed for long, however, and sent him a chilly stare over Claire’s head, still holding her close.
Gabriel appeared unconcerned, put the container and spoons on the bedside table and stood.
“Did you raid my fridge?” Peter asked, pointing at the empty ice cream.
Claire snorted, and Gabriel crossed his arms, staring at him accusingly.
“There’s hardly anything in there to raid,” he informed his friend.
Claire turned her head to look at Peter. “Well, we did have some pasta and salad earlier...”
Peter raised an eyebrow. “I have pasta?”
That made Claire and Gabriel laugh again and Noah in return feel as if someone had walked over his grave.
“Well, to be fair,” Gabriel began, “you haven’t been here for a while.” He smiled at Peter, walking closer.
Noah instinctively pulled Claire to himself and slightly turned her to the side and away from the approaching man.
Claire sighed. “Please, dad, I’m fine.” She pushed herself out of the embrace and brushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I’ve been fine for hours, now,” she grumbled, still kind of angry at Peter for pulling this stunt in the first place, even if nothing bad had happened. She walked around him and out of the bedroom.
“Hey, Hiro,” she greeted and smiled at their other guest, who had been silently watching the exchanges.
Hiro nodded at her in return.
Noah wasn’t in the mood for niceties and stalked after her. “Fine?” he asked. “How could you just sit there...”
“Dad,” she said, firmly, holding up a hand. “Not now. I’m dead tired, confused and hiding again, even though that was what I wanted to stop doing. Can’t this wait until tomorrow?”
“No! Have you forgotten what he did?” he said, imploringly. “What he did to you? Who he killed?” How could she not listen to him? The one time he had shown up with Sylar by his side, she had practically ripped his head off!
Claire felt more tired by the second.
“And you just, what? Forgive him?” he went on.
“I didn’t say that!” she defended herself. “We just had dinner, for fuck’s sake!”
“Good. And don’t you forget it, because he doesn’t deserve forg-”
Tiredness momentarily made way for boiling hot anger. “Excuse me?” she interrupted him, coldly. “Who are you to decide who deserves forgiveness and who doesn’t? I’ve forgiven you, haven’t? Dozens of times.”
Noah met her anger with his own. He was not a monster like Sylar. He was not. “I am not responsible for God knows how many Specials having their abilities ripped out of their skulls!”
Claire’s eyes flashed. “Funny you should put it that way...”
Noah replayed his words in his head, and tripped over “responsible”. His face lost some colour before he managed to restrain himself. “What did he tell you?” he demanded.
“Gee, I don’t know, dad. What do you think he could have told me?”
Noah swivelled around to stare at Sylar who was standing next to the glass door to the bedroom, Peter by his side. “You!” he growled.
Peter immediately stepped forward and in front of Gabriel, staring at Noah. “Oh, no, you don’t,” he said.
Gabriel looked vaguely amused and put a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Peter,” he said, calmly and then flickered his eyes to Noah. “Why don’t you tell her your version then?” He tilted his head, raising an eyebrow. “Go ahead.”
Peter’s glare suggested that he’d heard Sylar’s version, and if that accusing expression was anything to go by, Claire probably hadn’t liked it, either.
Hiro just kept calm eyes on Noah. He had already noticed the air around Sylar to be different. Off, somehow. And he had at one point in the past managed to catch a glimpse of something that might have been Gabriel Gray before he became Sylar. Adding those two facts, he concluded that Noah Bennet and Gabriel Gray must have crossed paths way before Claire had come into play.
His eyes narrowed slightly.
Noah looked from Sylar to Peter and back. Sylar might have been amused, but Peter was stone-cold. “Claire…” he breathed and turned towards her. “It was necessary…”
“Necessary?!” Claire audibly choked on the word and unconsciously took a step away from him. “Pushing someone who was unstable enough to try and commit suicide to kill another person so you can watch how he does it was necessary?” This time, the word left her throat squeaking. She wrapped her arms around herself, staring at her father wide-eyed.
Just how often had people wanted to sell her some sick and twisted idea for something they called ‘the greater good’?
“I did not,” Noah started, holding up a finger for emphasis, “kill that man. He did.”
Claire had expected that, because, well, that part at least was the truth, and Gabriel had never tried to deny it. Her voice turned cold and clinical. “You saved his life, turned him into a killer… and then let him loose,” she accused. “You let him loose. All the people he killed, he could kill because of you.”
Hiro stared at Noah, wide-eyed. “You let go Sylar? Why would you do that?”
Noah felt sick. He’d known that it wasn’t right, and he had felt guilty ever since, vowing that he would undo his wrongs by taking out Sylar. And he would, whatever the cost. “Look, I know what I did was wrong…”
“Do you?” Claire interrupted. “Then why did you keep doing it?”
Noah wanted to reply, he really did. But what should he have said? He knew that they had their issues – their trust issues that were largely his fault – and that they had never resolved them. What they had done instead, after Claire had learned at the carnival that what was supposedly in the past, might have been in the very recent past... was to end up in yet another near death experience that brought to light that they would be important to each other, and that she had to forgive him because he was an important part of her life. They had, once more, not dealt with what he had repeatedly done, and it would appear that this was biting him in the ass now, Sylar of all people being the catalyst.
“He had no choice, Claire,” Gabriel quietly interrupted her angry outburst, making everyone stare at him. Claire and Noah incredulously, Peter with a tiny proud smile, Hiro with an... understanding look.
Claire looked like she was about to yell at Gabriel, now, but was unsure what she should yell at him for, precisely.
Gabriel directed calm eyes to her. “What do you think happened to agents who wouldn’t do what the Company asked of them? You’ve seen it, haven’t you?”
“That doesn’t make it right!” she insisted.
“Of course it doesn’t.”
Noah wanted to interrupt, wanted to take back the control over the discussion, didn’t want to listen to this man digging closer to home than he was ready to let anyone go, but Peter threw him an intense look that almost literally froze him in place.
Gabriel continued. “And what do you think happened to agents who had emotional ties? Families?” He reached for her with a hand, but held himself back before it could touch her shoulder. “Wouldn’t you do anything to protect your family?”
Exhaustion and fear and years of suppressing aspects of her life out of necessity caught up with her. Sylar had tried to wake realisation in her before, it took Gabriel to succeed. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she looked skywards, biting her lip to keep the sob in.
“But I don’t want...” she tried to swallow another sob and tears escaped instead. “I don’t want to be responsible for that!”
“I know,” Gabriel just said.
“Like Stephen Canfield?” She had to force the name out her throat, staring at Gabriel. “You were there! I don’t want to be protected if that is the price! What good is my life if I cause...” Her throat constricted, unable to finish the sentence.
“Claire,” Noah breathed and shook his head. “Those things were my decision, you...”
“It doesn’t matter,” Claire all but whimpered. “It’s my fault.”
Again, it was Gabriel who intercepted. “No, it’s not. And you know that.”
“Why don’t you just shut up?” Noah demanded, now close to tears as well. “You don’t even belong here.” He made a move towards Claire, but she shrank back, sobbing.
“I don’t belong, dad,” she wailed, Peter now stepping in to hold her.
Noah stared at Gabriel, angrily. “Is that what you wanted? Pretend to be all normal and nice and reformed only to break her?”
Gabriel just shook his head, incredulously. “I’ve said that you don’t understand her before, and that apparently hasn’t changed.”
Noah’s eyes flashed.
“You don’t even realise what you’re doing to her, do you?” Gabriel asked. He knew, unlike Noah, that every comment, every word, every gesture of Noah’s that expressed that Gabriel didn’t belong, wasn’t normal, was unable to be anything but a monster... reached Claire as if it had been directed at her.
Noah breathed harshly and turned towards Claire. “See? He keeps doing that! You can’t believe him, Claire!”
A heart-wrenching sob escaped her, and she clasped at Peter’s shirt; his reassuring whispers didn’t help at all.
“I want to!” she finally burst out.
Gabriel felt as if the apartment and everything in it had vanished, leaving only Claire. She... wanted to? Wanted to believe him?
A mental nudge from Peter who was still using Parkman’s ability jerked him out of his reverie, and he reacted to the silent request, stepping closer to him and Claire.
Claire stared pleadingly at her father. She had spent the last hours trying to convince herself that ‘Gabriel’ couldn’t be for real. It took her father confirming that he couldn’t be, for her to realise just how much she wanted to believe.
“I don’t want to be alone, dad,” she whispered. “He’s the only one who... The only one.”
“He will turn on you,” Noah promised.
“No, I won’t,” Gabriel contradicted, firmly, keeping his eyes on only Claire. “I won’t.”
Claire sobbed again, peeking at her father. “I need him to not fail,” she forced out, “I need to know it’s possible. I need to see that... I can do it.” The last few words were barely audible and froze Noah in place.
“Claire, no,” Gabriel said, now not thinking anymore, but only reacting. He took Peter’s place and Claire into his arms, speaking into her hair. “You’re strong, Claire. You can do this. You’re just... tired.”
Claire squeezed her eyes shut, thinking as little as he did, holding onto him tightly. “I’m breaking down, and you think I’m strong?” The irony of the situation almost choked her, but he didn’t let her drown in it.
“Of course you are,” he said, not doubting it for a second. “And I will not fail you. I swear to you I won’t,” he said intently. He could feel through his empathy how Claire bit by bit began to realise what she had unconsciously known for years. That she was going to be alone, that she was not like the others, nor would she ever be, that her father would never truly understand her even if he did love her... that she shared her greatest fear with a man who by all rights should have frightened her even more, but who was now – as he had taunted her – the only one she could have and... keep.
It scared her how readily she wanted and needed to believe that he had changed, simply because the eternal and isolated alternative was worse than what he had done to her in the past.
“And I will be there,” he finally added. She would need it, he knew. She would need more than just him. She would need all of her strength and all the support she had, because now, there would be no more hiding. No more hiding from the world... and no more hiding from herself. Denial was a very strong and effective shield. And it... was no longer an option.
Helplessly he looked up and locked eyes with Peter, studiously ignoring Noah’s murderous and accusing stare.
Peter’s eyes flickered to the bed that had previously been occupied by both Gabriel and Claire. Gabriel nodded.
“Claire,” Gabriel said, tentatively running a gentle hand over Claire’s hair. “You’re exhausted.”
Claire tensed immediately, another suppressed sob made her body jerk. “No,” she managed to say.
“Come on,” he coaxed, using his empathy to project some of the calm he had been carrying with him ever since he had found it in his shared mind prison with Peter. “You can plan and take control again tomorrow. You need to sleep now, Claire.” He kept his voice soft and lulling and steered her towards the still open glass door. “Come on, don’t make me carry you.”
Claire sniffed a tiny laugh and let him take her into the other room.
Gabriel closed the glass door behind them; the others would still be able to see them, but they could talk unheard. He directed her to the bed and sat next to her when she lay down.
The exhaustion ran deeply through Claire. It had been a long day. Physically and emotionally. Why did she feel so calm? “What are you doing?”
Gabriel looked down, sheepish. “I’m sorry. I really just wanted to help you calm down so you could sleep.”
That should have worried her, yet it didn’t.
“I’m letting go. Don’t panic when I do.”
Claire started to notice things more clearly, her thoughts more easily to control. However... she was still too tired to make much use of it.
“Okay?” he asked.
Gabriel shifted, his head tilting slightly to the side, indicating the three people in the main room (since it could hardly be called a living room). “They will probably try to plan your future, again,” he said. “Well, Noah will, undoubtedly. Peter will at first resist and then agree when it comes to protecting you.”
Claire’s eyes narrowed. “You accusing Peter now?”
Gabriel just smiled. “I love Peter, and I never would.” His lip twitched. “I happen to agree that you might need a very thorough protection plan, now.” He leaned closer. “I’ll make sure they don’t decide behind your back. I will not let that happen.”
Claire rubbed her eyes. “Why should I believe you?”
“Because I never lied to you, Claire Bennet.”
“Promise me. Promise you won’t let them control me.”
Gabriel left the bedroom, closing the door behind himself. He looked up at Peter, still ignoring Noah, his eyes merely flickering to Hiro. “She’s asleep,” he said.
“What did you do to her?” Noah demanded.
Gabriel’s anger flared again. “She asked me to help her sleep,” he said, his dark eyes all but daring Noah to question him.
Noah snorted. “Of course she did.”
Gabriel smirked. “Yes. After she made me promise I wouldn’t let you plan her life without her.”
“Look, if you think…”
“Hey!” Peter hissed, as quietly as he could. He pointed a finger at Noah. “You. You know damn well that this is what you wanted to do. And you,” he pointed at Gabriel, “stop taunting him.” His lip twitched. “Even if he might have deserved that one.”
Gabriel sighed, now feeling the fatigue creep through his bones, too. “We all want her safe,” he said, directing a neutral look at Noah. “So why don’t we focus on that?”
“I don’t trust you.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “I don’t trust you, either. What’s your point?”
“My point is that I didn’t crack open her skull.”
Gabriel successfully suppressed a flinch. “No. You just lied to her for years, manipulated her, tried to take her memory, controlled her and just kept apologising and telling her how sorry you were only to stab her in the back again when you thought she wouldn’t see.” He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. “Need me to go on?” He didn’t let Noah answer that. “We’ve both done her wrong, and I don’t know about you, but I won’t do it again.”
Noah snorted. “Right. Are you honestly trying to tell me that you’re so reformed that you won’t ever fall back into your old game again?” He smiled a cold smile. “Because I’ve seen you try to change, before, Sylar. It didn’t end well.”
Surprisingly, it was Peter who answered first. “It’s not the same thing,” he insisted and looked at Gabriel, putting a hand on his shoulder, feeling ripples of tension run through the other’s body. Gabriel was afraid, there was no doubt about that. He pulled at the shoulder to turn Gabriel towards him.
“It isn’t,” he repeated, waiting for Gabriel to lift his head and look at him. “The last time you tried to change, you wanted to prove yourself to people who lied, manipulated and used you. This time, you did it for yourself, in your own time, with no other goal than to not be alone.”
Gabriel wanted to believe Peter, and when he allowed himself to leave the doubts aside, just listening to what he knew was in him, he knew that Peter was right.
Peter smiled a bit. “I know I don’t exactly have the most trustworthy family history,” he said, making Gabriel chuckle, “but there is nothing I want from you except your friendship. I believe in you, Gabriel Gray, and don’t you forget that.”
He turned towards Noah, his hand remaining where it was. “Sylar is gone, Noah, and if you want to keep Claire safe, we will need Gabriel. Especially now.”
Gabriel sighed when Peter’s hand fell off his shoulder. “It’s not like I’m not afraid of the future,” he admitted, his eyes briefly flickering to Hiro, who had so far mostly just listened and absorbed the information. He focused on Noah, again, after Hiro’s eerie look made him shiver. “I have doubts, of course I do. But I know – I know – that I can do this. I’m still terrified, but I’ll do it.”
“I will look,” Hiro declared, his pensive expression turning cheerful in the blink of an eye.
Noah stared at him. “Look at what?”
“From this version of the present, I will look at the future,” he elaborated, then looked at Gabriel. “I do not know yet who you are now, since I can see that you are not the brain man, but I will find out.” He nodded, once and was gone.
This time, Gabriel very visibly flinched. He also paled, his eyes darting around.
“Hey, buddy, you okay?” Peter asked.
“I...” Gabriel shook his head. “What if... what if he... Peter! What if I’m wrong?”
Peter rolled his eyes and just smiled at him. “I’m not worried.” He shrugged. “Not one bit.”
Noah shook his head, incredulously. “Are you serious? You can’t believe that he’s actually stable beyond doubt. I mean, fine, so you trust him, but a number of things could happen, regardless.”
A number of things that were clearly running through Gabriel’s head just then. Every single one of them.
Peter framed his face with both hands, still smiling. “I know you, Gabriel. I know you. And I? Am not worried.”
Gabriel stared into Peter’s eyes for a long time. Long enough for the trust to seep into him; long enough for him to remember that the peace he had found within himself – literally – was still there, even if both their actions now had consequences once more that they’d not had in the world his own mind had created.
He wasn’t Sylar anymore, he could feel that. The hunger was not pulling at him, his curious mind having found what it truly had been looking for.
“Got me?” Peter asked.
Peter smirked. “I mean, it’s not like I never lost it, is it? Do you think I’ll lose it again?”
Gabriel snorted and stepped back and out of the trusting hold. “Of course not.”
Peter took a small bow. “Thank you.”
“And you,” Gabriel said, still smiling but obviously serious.
“You’re still nervous,” Noah couldn’t help adding.
Gabriel’s dark eyes darted to him. “Of course I am. But I am not giving up.” He kept his intense stare on the other man. “And even if our sword wielding little hero sees something bad, I’ll do everything in my power to prevent it.”
“You really think you’re going to get a chance at a normal life?” Noah said, incredulously, almost laughing.
Peter took a step towards him, but Gabriel held him back.
“Why?” Gabriel asked. “What do you have in store for me to lose it, this time?” He shook his head, slowly. “Twice is enough, Noah.” He sighed, deeply, and when Hiro reappeared, he was still nervous, certainly, but not afraid to face what he had to.
They all turned to the time traveller, Noah’s expression almost desperate, and that desperation grew when he saw the happy and honest smile on the man’s face.
“What did you see, Hiro?” he demanded.
Hiro merely nodded at him and turned to Gabriel, bowing, formally. “It will be my honour,” he said and straightened, “to share my ability with you, Gabriel Gray.”
Peter positively beamed, relief flooding through him despite his earlier words. He had meant those words, but he had been fully prepared to guide Gabriel through difficulties as they arose. This did not sound like there would be any of those kind.
“Hiro, no,” Noah said. “You are making a mistake.” Somebody had to see reason! Just because he himself wasn’t to be entirely trusted didn’t mean that Sylar was off the hook as a result.
“You will understand in time,” Hiro merely said.
Gabriel didn’t really know what to do with what he had just heard. He had half a mind to ask for what Hiro had seen, but he was also reasonable sure that he wouldn’t get an answer. Not a clear one, at any rate. So, instead, he asked, “It might take some time,” he hesitated, “I’m still not really accustomed to acquiring abilities with my empathy. But I thank you.”
Hiro tilted his head. “Did you not feel my presence when I disappeared and came back? You did feel my emotions, yes?”
Gabriel blinked, puzzled. “Yes, you were slightly out of phase…” He frowned and blinked again, averting his eyes into nothingness. Suddenly, something seemed to click within him, and a slow smile appeared on his face. He closed his eyes and tried to apply the same feeling of ‘being out of phase’ that he had felt in the other man and… when he opened his eyes, the world around him had stopped.
He laughed, delighted, turning around his own axis, feeling the new ability flood his mind, as if it had always been there, only waiting for him to understand and use it. Time and space were flowing around and through him, like a single, lively current.
He took a few steps through the room and then came to a halt on the other side, turning to face the people still standing there… and he… let go of his hold, watching as everything began to move again.
“This is awesome,” he blurted out without thinking, grinning at Peter who smirked back. “Thank you,” this was heartfelt and directed at Hiro.
Noah, understandably, was less thrilled. “What have you done?” he asked Hiro, already seeing various scenarios in which this ability now made Sylar virtually uncatchable, after already being omnipotent and immortal.
“He would have learned, fast,” Hiro said, shrugging. “This makes it easier for Claire. To keep her here, when he can take her out sometimes.” He exchanged a serious look with Gabriel. “And you must convince her that it is best if she hides here, only for now.”
Gabriel nodded. “She knows.” He looked at Noah. “And she agrees to stay here for the time being, but only if she is included in every step of the planning.”
“And you just…” Noah waved a hand, “talked her into that?”
Gabriel tilted his head. “She actually came up with that on her own. She’s not stupid. She’s knows of the gravity of what she did, she just didn’t believe that there was another way.”
“There is always another way,” Noah insisted.
“Your way?” Gabriel asked quietly.
Peter and Hiro looked from one of the men currently trying to re-enacting a Mexican standoff by staring alone to the other and back again, before sharing a look and raised eyebrows.
Peter finally intervened. “Okay, that’s it.” He pointed at Noah. “I’m kicking you out.” At Noah’s incredulous look, he explained. “It’s been one heck of a day, and the last time I slept, I was actually in a coma, and that’s not very restful. Same goes for him.” He nodded at Gabriel. “Claire’s asleep, as we both want to be very soon, so…”
“I’m staying,” Noah said, firmly. “I won’t be able to sleep…”
“I didn’t say I wanted you to sleep,” Peter interrupted him. “I said I wanted to sleep, and I will definitely not be able to do that with you coming up with God knows what in my living room.” He sighed. “Claire will still be fine tomorrow morning.” Then he tilted his head at Hiro.
The Japanese man nodded. “I will take him,” he offered.
“Thank you,” Peter nodded in return, then stared at Noah again. “And don’t you dare come back before noon. I’m dead tired.”
Noah had the time to narrow his eyes before he disappeared with Hiro, making Gabriel snicker and Peter smirk.
The tenseness fell of them, and they could breathe a little easier. It was noticeable in both of them, but even more so in Gabriel.
He rubbed his face. “So… since the bed is taken… got any other options?”
Peter ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah… uh…” There was something, wasn’t there? Something… man, he was tired. “I have some yoga mat thing and an inflatable mattress. I’m gonna let you choose, tonight. Tomorrow, we’re going to have to find a way to get two beds or at least a bed and a couch… or something.”
Gabriel huffed fondly and amused. “You are about ready to crash aren’t you?”
“Don’t try to tell me you’re not…”
They smirked at each other for a moment in perfect accord, before Peter sneaked into his bedroom to get out their makeshift beds, some blankets and some shorts and t-shirts for them to wear to sleep. Since Gabriel didn’t have any clothes with him, Peter stuffed what they’d been wearing into the laundry machine.
After that, they pretty much fell asleep side by side below the window in the living room, the moment their heads touched the… well, whatever more or less soft surface they were lying on, not that either of them still noticed.
Gabriel jerked awake a lot sooner than he would have liked and blinked in the near darkness. It took him a moment to realise what had woken him, and he turned to look at Peter who slept soundly. Which only left... His eyes wandered to the glass door behind which somebody apparently had a hard time finding the restful part of sleep.
For a brief moment he considered waking Peter, since Claire without a doubt would have preferred being comforted by her uncle instead of Gabriel, but he discarded it. One of them at least should be properly rested by morning, since Gabriel had no illusions whatsoever about Noah’s ability to actually stay away until noon, and he could deal with a pissed off Claire, once she got over whatever panic she was caught in right now and returned to the anger she always felt around him.
He silently padded to the other room and made sure to close the door behind himself again. Against his expectations, Claire was not tossing and turning, but a sheen of sweat covered her face, her breathing was laboured and her expression was pained.
“Claire?” he whispered, standing next to the bed. When she didn’t react, he projected some calm again, before sitting on the edge of the bed and carefully laying a hand on her arm. “Claire...” he repeated, this time allowing some soft sound in his voice above a whisper.
Claire didn’t awake suddenly, she much more drifted into wakefulness... and then startled when she saw who was with her.
“Shh,” Gabriel said, taking away his hand. “You’re at Peter’s, remember? He’s out there, sleeping.” He twisted to the side so that she could see past him if she wanted. As of now, she didn’t appear to want a whole lot; she looked only half-aware and confused, still caught in her dream. Gabriel tried a stab in the dark from the emotions he had received, while she was sleeping. “You’re not in your dream anymore. You’re not alone.”
She wanted to stare at him accusingly, but all she managed was a lost look. “How did you know it was that?” she said, instead.
Gabriel smiled, crookedly, and took her hand that she for reasons unknown to her didn’t pull away. “For one, it’s not exactly surprising after what we were talking about, earlier, and for another... I’m an empath, and I know the feelings you were projecting.”
Claire sniffed and used her unoccupied hand to rub her eyes. “Why are you awake, anyway?”
Gabriel smirked. “You were projecting quite loudly...”
Claire narrowed her eyes at him, both of them satisfied that the spark of anger had managed to return. Anything was better than the feeling of being lost and at fate’s mercy. “Why didn’t Peter hear, then? He’s an empath, too,” she grumbled.
Gabriel considered that. “I think he’s mostly a tactile empath. I’m not. When he’s awake, he can focus on people’s emotions, even if he doesn’t touch them. I guess now we know it doesn’t work when he’s asleep.”
Claire pointedly looked at their joined hands.
“That’s for your benefit...”
Claire wanted to pull away her hand at that, not at all liking the implication, but he tightened his hold.
“Claire, it’s okay. It’s okay to want comfort after a nightmare.” He tilted his head. “Or during a nightmare, for that matter. Trust me, I know.”
Claire bit her lip but let her hand where it was. “I don’t want comfort from you, and I don’t want...” Her breath hitched and she turned her head away from him.
“You don’t want to appear weak in front of me?” he guessed correctly, but she didn’t answer. “Had I thought you were weak at even a single point in time, trust me, you would have had your peace, because I certainly wouldn’t have been interested in seeking you out.”
She snorted, making him grin.
“Granted,” he agreed, “that probably doesn’t make things better...” Except that it did, in that moment. “Plus... you have seen me at my weakest. And you at least don’t start killing people when you lose it.”
Claire turned to look at him. “You asking my advice was ‘you at your weakest’?”
Gabriel slowly shook his head. “No. When your dad told me that the Petrellis weren’t my parents, on the other hand...” he let his voice drift off. “That one definitely makes the top three of Sylar’s weakest.”
At the time, Claire hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary in the man, but she had been kind of preoccupied with the whole threat to her parents and being kidnapped thing. In retrospect... she probably could have seen a myriad of emotions crumbling in Sylar’s expression.
“What were the other two?” she couldn’t help asking into the quiet of the room.
He rubbed a thumb unconsciously over her hand he was holding, his eyes staring into nothingness. “Elle and your dad betraying me,” he finally said. “Well, Elle, really. I didn’t know that Noah was involved at the time.” He sighed deeply and released the breath with a shudder. “The other time was when my mother died.”
It had been Claire’s understanding that he had killed her, but this didn’t sound like it was quite so simple. It also didn’t sound like Gabriel would have been all that happy to share that memory with her… even though she knew that he would have without question, had she asked. Instead, she asked something else that puzzled her. “Not your nightmare?”
Gabriel smiled, weakly. “No. That was…” he was searching for the right words, “… a nightmare, obviously. Definitely the worst. I mean, a telepath made it for me, so it would have to have been the worst possible scenario for me…” His eyes fell on their joined hands, and he seemed to notice absently what his thumb had been doing, but he didn’t stop the steady, soft movement. “But I had deserved it.” He looked up and into her eyes. “And it was… liberating, in a way. I couldn’t kill, I couldn’t be the monster I never wanted to be in the first place. In my worst fear, I found the time to heal.”
Silent tears slipped from Claire’s eyes and into the hair at her temple, but she didn’t notice it.
“And now…” Gabriel tilted his head, keeping their eyes locked. “Now… I don’t think it would be my worst nightmare, anymore.” His own eyes watered. “What I fear the most… is becoming that monster again. I couldn’t bear that, Claire.”
Claire clasped his hand in return, now.
“Which is why Peter knows where my… ‘off switch’ is. At the first sign of Sylar re-emerging, I’d either take care of it myself, or he would have to do it.”
Claire’s grip tightened.
Gabriel smiled softly. “I’d tell you where it is, too, but I’d like to do some good, first…” he said, making her laugh a tiny, watery laugh.
“But it’s not gonna happen,” he added, firmly, softly and leaned closer. “I can feel that he’s gone. The pull, those… urges. It’s not there.” He huffed, amused. “I’m still curious as hell, but that’s not linked to killing people anymore, so… I really plan to stay around for you. You don’t have to be afraid of being alone. I promise. Oh, and hey,” he suddenly remembered, brightening, “you missed the part yesterday when Hiro went into the future and came back, actually offering me his power.”
For some reason that Claire wasn’t entirely sure about, that didn’t surprise her, but merely made a tight knot in her chest snap and make her breathe a little more easily.
“That probably means I’ll do okay,” he added.
Claire shook her head. “But it’s like you said. We have to watch all our loved ones…” she swallowed, “… drop like flies.” Her voice broke at the end of the sentence.
Gabriel used his free hand to run it through her hair, carefully. “That would be hard on anyone. But, Claire, it won’t be hard on them. We can be there for the people we love right till the end.”
Claire listened to the words and even found them comforting… but… “You confuse me,” she finally said. “Who are you?”
“If you give me the chance, I would like you to get to know me,” he offered.
Claire blinked slowly, remembering Peter who apparently had gotten to know Gabriel, but unable to actually process what he was saying.
“You should sleep some more,” he said. “Do you want me to help you?”
Falling asleep sounded nice enough. Facing more nightmares didn’t. Her fingers tightened on his hand ever so slightly.
“I won’t leave if you don’t want me to,” he said as a response to her reaction. “And don’t think about what you should or shouldn’t want. You can worry about that again tomorrow.”
Claire smirked, sardonically, if tiredly. “I guess you owe me, anyway.”
He chuckled, a low rumble, projecting the feeling of warm contentment, until her eyes closed, never letting go of her hand.
Without truly meaning to, Gabriel eventually nodded off as well. He was too exhausted to notice how invisible hands lifted him, carried him to the other side of Claire where there still was a little room and laid him down.
Both he and Claire kept a hold of the other’s hand, effectively enfolding Claire in his arm.
Peter closed the door quietly behind himself – though not before allowing a small, benign smirk directed at the bed – and went back to sleep, spending a passing thought on hoping that Claire wouldn’t freak out come morning.
Peter woke some hours later to a knock on the door. A quick look at the time made him groan. It wasn’t even nine, yet. He first rolled his eyes and then out of bed, padded past his bedroom where he couldn’t help but peek in and smile – apparently, the knock hadn’t woken those two – and then to the door. Through the spyhole he didn’t see Noah as he had expected but his frazzled looking mother. He opened the door.
“Hey, mom,” he greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. “Everything okay?”
She waved him off, appearing something between busy and uncomfortable. “Of course. Things went as planned, I hear.”
Peter nodded. “Yeah...?”
Angela nodded as well. “Good.” She cleared her throat. “Noah will be here in a few minutes. You should wake those two,” she nodded towards the other room, “before he sees them and starts shooting.”
Peter rubbed his face, annoyed. “They’re exhausted,” he protested.
“Peter,” Angela said, stepping close to him and pretty much staring him down. “Noah will freak out, shoot your friend, and make Claire really angry with her father. We currently have to reassemble some sort of functioning network, and we can’t have two key players not speaking to each other for months.”
“Did I make myself clear? You are all dealing with public relations now, and that is not something either you or Claire have any experience with. If you want your lives to work out, you need to know how to play the press and as a result the public.” She paused. “You also need to be able to convince the public that you know what you’re dealing with when it comes to Specials, or someone else deals with it for you.”
“Are you talking about locking people with abilities up again?” Peter asked suspiciously.
“Not as a general rule, no.” She straightened. “Even though that would have been easier than what this new situation forces us into. There will be more Specials coming out of the closet every day, now. People’s friends, neighbours, family. What we need – and we need it fast – is a plan and the required network for support, counselling, training and, yes, if absolutely necessary, detainment.”
Her eyes wandered out of the kitchen and to the bed she could see through the glass wall. “Wake them up. We need both of them.”
Peter tilted his head, smiling slightly. “Did you know? Did you know what would happen to Gabriel once I got to him?”
Angela sighed. “My visions were unclear when it came to him... But it appears he has cleared up his own future,” she added, decisively.
Peter’s smile widened noticeably, and Angela answered it, if a bit pained.
He went to open the bedroom door, leaned halfway in and knocked on the glass. “Hey...” he said, watching them both flinch and slowly wake up.
“You two make a cute picture, but according to my mom, Noah will get here in a bit and disagree. And I’d like to have my bed sheets without holes and blood stains, thank you.” He smirked.
Gabriel was the first to realise whom he had been holding in his sleep, removed the arm quickly and sat up. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
Claire just shook her head and sat, too. She was not awake enough to deal with how comforting his presence had been, nor could she muster the energy to get angry at him for something she had asked him to do. She settled for being vaguely disgruntled.
Peter took in Claire’s clothes that she still wore. “Gabriel, your clothes are dry. Why don’t you take a shower, then you can pop over to Claire’s dorm and get her something to wear.” He looked at Claire. “Sound good?”
Claire stretched and looked at her attire. “Yeah, sure.” She was about ready to get out of those clothes. Actually, she was about ready to burn the damn things, after the day she’d had in them.
Gabriel swung his legs over the edge of the bed and got up. “What time did you wake up?” he asked, incredulously. “Since my clothes are dry, already?”
Peter smirked. “Before I tucked you in, in the middle of last night, I put them in the dryer. You were hunched over on the edge of the bed, by the way.”
Gabriel startled, turned to look at Claire who rolled her eyes (probably both amused and annoyed) and back to Peter. “You...” He waved a finger at Peter.
Peter just laughed. “Get in the shower.” His eyes followed him as he left.
Gabriel paused briefly when he saw Angela sitting at the table, looking at him. He nodded. “Angela.”
“Good morning, Gabriel.” She sounded a lot more composed than she actually was, then again, that had always been kind of a specialty of hers.
Gabriel blinked, not really sure how to react to that. “Right...” he mumbled to himself and disappeared in the bathroom.
Peter fully entered the bedroom and closed the door. “You okay?”
“Not sure...” Claire thought about it for a second. “Surprisingly well rested, actually,” she finally admitted.
Peter nodded, slowly. “Gabriel is… pretty much the most peaceful presence I’ve ever known. I don’t even remember how often he kept me from going completely nuts in there…”
Claire stared at her knees. Gabriel did calm her down, at least when the memories of him didn’t do the opposite. Seeing as he still calmed her down, regardless, he really must have had quite the presence. Naturally, that didn’t mean that she had to like it, no more than she liked breaking down the night before.
“Don’t know what the hell was wrong with me, yesterday,” she mumbled.
Peter raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
Claire looked up. “What do you mean? I’ve had worse things happen to me than what happened yesterday.” She sounded very much angry at herself.
Peter nodded. “You did.” He sighed. “Claire, I’ve seen you dig up corpses in the desert without batting an eyelash.” He let that sink in for a second or two. “You jammed a shard of glass into the back of a man’s head. Granted, he was taunting you and trying to kill people, but you’re not a stone cold killer, are you? Is that really who you are?”
Her jaw set. “It was necessary at the time.”
Peter shook his head. “Are you listening to yourself? You buried a part of yourself because you felt you needed to be able to do things like that.” He averted his gaze for a second. “And I’ve seen where this could take you.”
Claire shivered. She didn’t want to think about a possible future self that would not hesitate to kill Peter. But that was something else, entirely, wasn’t it?
“Because that is what happens when you have to hide who you are.” He waited until she returned his serious look. “You hide more of yourself than you should, and eventually, you can’t find it anymore.”
Claire pursed her lips.
“It’s what happened to my mother, to Nathan… to your dad. And it’s why you broke down last night. You stopped hiding, and that part of you doesn’t want to be a person who can look at death, emotionless.”
Claire sniffed. “So, what?” she asked, angrily. “I’m going to break down every five minutes from now on?”
Peter just smiled. “Of course not. But there have been a lot of things in your past that you never dealt with.” He stepped closer to her. “Deal with them.”
Some of her defiance flashed in her eyes.
“That’s the spirit,” he said, grinning. “And you’re not alone. I’m here for you, as is Gabriel. I know, I know,” he added, quickly, before she could protest, “you want nothing to do with him, but he’s on your side, regardless.”
Claire cleared her throat. “I guess it’s safer to have him on the team than off it…”
Peter had to laugh at that. “It is…” He snapped his fingers. “Right. I have to get him a towel,” he said, opening a closet, taking two out and throwing one to her before doing as he’d said.
Claire hesitated for several long moments before she got up to greet her grandmother.
“Good morning, Angela.”
“Good morning, Claire.” Her clear eyes followed Claire until she sat. “You slept well, I hear.”
Claire gave her a very dirty look. “And I hear that it was your idea to have Gabriel fly me out.” She smiled a saccharine smile that turned just this side of nasty when she said the name.
Angela returned the smile with a fake one of her own. “Peter was immediately recognised, as I knew he would be. And there were certain things I needed to take care of, concerning Gabriel, before he could be seen in public.”
Peter closed the bathroom door and frowned at her. “What things?”
“Nothing to worry about, dear.”
Peter huffed, stood in the middle of the room and crossed his arms. “Excuse me if I don’t find this reassuring.”
Angela’s lips twitched. “I will explain once he’s done with his shower. It is about him, after all.”
Peter’s expression showed clearly that he was not to be messed with. “I will not let you use him, manipulate him, lie to him, or let you do anything even remotely dishonest…”
“Peter,” Angela interrupted him. “I have no intention of doing any of that. And I couldn’t lie to him, anyway, even if I wanted to.”
That seemed to mollify Peter a bit.
“I will not use him, either, but he will be needed. I hope that is acceptable for you?”
“He could use a purpose,” Peter agreed.
“Indeed he could.” She looked pensive. “And he will find it.”
The shower stopped audibly and made everyone quiet down, leaving them to their own thoughts. When the blow dryer started, Claire straightened in her seat.
“So… what’s the plan?” she asked.
“You are not going to like all of the necessary steps that need to be taken, but I’m sure you’re going to have to agree that they are inevitable, what with the choices you made,” Angela said, calmly.
Claire’s jaw set, she scratched at the surface of the table with a fingernail and looked up at her while keeping her face slightly downturned. “You’re going to make me hide here, aren’t you?”
Angela nodded, once. “That is one aspect, yes. Before you protest, we can try to not ‘hole you up’, but it would be to our advantage if the press didn’t know quite yet where to find you. We can arrange for outings, both with and without the media.”
Claire didn’t like it, but she had expected it. She didn’t get to voice any kind of disgruntled and pouty comments, however.
The expected knock on the door came.
Peter sighed and smirked slightly when he went to open it. He had to admit that he was glad that his mother had shown up. Noah didn’t have to be welcomed by the sight of his daughter sharing a bed with his declared arch-nemesis.
He pulled open the door with a flourish and a loud, “Good morning, Noah!”
Peter just walked back into the living room, leaving Noah to close the door. “It’s not even close to noon, you know.”
Noah closed the door a little more loudly than necessary. “You didn’t actually expect me to stay away, did you?”
“A man can hope, can’t he?”
Noah stood in the doorway to the living room and let his eyes roam quickly. “Where is he?”
Peter plopped down in another of the four chairs, joining his mother and Claire. “Bathroom. Obviously.”
Noah walked closer and finally sat in the last chair.
When he didn’t say anything for the longest moment, Claire exhaled explosively. “He didn’t try to kill anyone all night. You can stop scowling.” Her tone and expression were of pure sarcasm.
“Well excuse me for being worried about you sharing an apartment with a deranged serial killer.”
Thankfully, Noah was no telepath and didn’t hear the triple thoughts of ‘bed, not just apartment’.
“If I’m a serial killer, then so are you, Noah,” Gabriel said, exiting the bathroom, fully dressed and his hair mostly dry. He had even shaved. “Your body count is higher than mine,” he added, slowly walking closer and coming to a stop behind Peter’s chair.
“Really?” Noah said, not really letting it sound like a question. After all, he was well aware of the numbers himself.
“Yes, really.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “One touch is all it takes for me to know everything about you. Never mind that I spent long enough in Parkman’s head that it would have been virtually impossible not to pick up his telepathy.”
Noah just stared at him.
“You hate me, I get it, and that’s fine. Just don’t think you have a right to self-righteousness.”
“Did you shave?” Claire asked, before they could jump each other’s throats.
Gabriel turned to look at her, startled but clearly amused. “What’s a man with three days’ growth to do on the other two days?” He sighed dramatically and put both his hands on the back of Peter’s chair. “It’s a mystery.”
Peter laughed. “Dude, I don’t even...” He laughed again.
Claire huffed, but couldn’t quite keep the laugh out. “Enough already.” She pushed back her chair. “And I want that shower, now, anyway.”
“Just one moment,” Angela said. “Gabriel. Could you please give Claire a brief summary of what you think would be the best, immediate course of action?”
Claire and Noah stared at her, incredulously. Claire voiced both their thoughts: “You want him to come up with a plan?”
“Claire, understanding things is in his nature, for one. For another… with the plan coming from him, you’ll believe that your father and I didn’t conspire behind your back.”
Claire narrowed her eyes.
Gabriel chuckled. “You expect me to say what you would?”
Angela just smiled. “We’ll see, won’t we?”
Gabriel lowered his eyes… Claire would be so mad at him… Then again, that wasn’t exactly something new, was it?
“Since Claire helpfully made herself an icon…” he snorted at his words and tried very hard not to smile at Claire’s scowl directed at him, “it would be best if she could hide here until we have a public persona for her to represent and then find a life for her to match.”
“Public persona?” Claire all but spat the words.
Gabriel remained as calm as ever. “Claire, the indestructible girl made an appearance on national TV. If you want to help Specials in the aftermath – and you can’t tell me that you don’t – you need a story to tell, you have sympathy to gain. And, well, making you a… celebrity,” he smirked a bit, “is the safest way to keep plans of possible abductions to a minimum. People need to be aware of you.”
He cleared his throat when he saw that his words had sunk in. “Short-term,” he said and looked at Angela, “we need to stage an interview. No audience. An interviewer of our choice, preferably a female one. Aired on as many stations as possible, though I don’t think that will be a problem,” he rattled off a list of things he could think of just then. “And it should be soon. Announced today if possible, recorded within a week at latest. We approve of the final cut.”
Angela smiled, satisfied. “No audience?” she asked, that apparently having been a point she hadn’t thought of.
Gabriel shook his head. “They can interfere, twist stories.”
“We need a support system for Specials, and it has to be presentable to the public, at least on the surface. Then we should create some sort of… evaluation,” he couldn’t think of a better word, “to determine who might be a danger to themselves and or others. Offer help and training…” he hesitated.
Peter patted his hand where it rested on the back of his chair. “Some will need to be detained.”
Gabriel nodded, jerkily. “Yes. And offered help,” he said, his voice allowing no argument.
Noah silently shook his head, hundreds of explanation as to why that was a virtually impossible goal running through his mind. Peter and Claire on the other hand appeared… hopeful.
Claire finally snickered into the silence. “I have a feeling you’re going to be more trouble to the Company now than you ever were.”
Gabriel smirked. “Was there ever any doubt?”
Claire’s expression sobered. “You think it’s doable?” She frowned doubtfully. “In all seriousness?”
“We will find a way.”
Noah sighed loudly, getting ready to voice his own doubts, but Angela wouldn’t let him.
“It’s up to them, now, Noah.”
He returned her pained look still incredulous.
“It’s a new world with new rules,” she said. “All you and I can do, now, is hoping that the younger generation is wiser than we were and help them shape that world.”
The other three shared an awkward look, until Peter broke the ice by saying, sarcastically, “But no pressure, right?”
Claire and Gabriel snorted; Noah and Angela looked much more like they wished for… something, anything else.
Claire finally breathed loudly and leaned back in her seat. “Okay. I’d really like to have that shower, soon.” She looked at Angela. “So why don’t you tell us what you needed to take care of for him?” she nodded towards Gabriel. “I don’t want any more nasty surprises.”
Gabriel curiously lifted an eyebrow. “What did you do?”
Angela cleared her throat and straightened in her seat. “I cleared your name.”
Gabriel let go of the back of Peter’s chair and straightened as well. “My name?”
She shrugged. “Sylar was never a matter of official police records, and Danko’s team is gone. All it took was a little add-on to your file with an eye witness account by our two Japanese heroes that clearly states that the death of your mother was an accident.” She tilted her head. “Your case is closed and your name cleared, Gabriel Gray. Make something of it.”
Gabriel stared at her, dumfounded. As did Claire and Peter, though Angela and Gabriel didn’t notice another thing in the room for a few moments.
Noah broke the spell. “That’s awfully generous of you,” he said, suspiciously.
Angela huffed. “Nonsense. Gabriel will be needed in what is to come. This had to be taken care of before the press starts digging into his past. And they will.”
Gabriel smirked. “Thanks anyway.”
Angela waved him off with a hand, magnanimously. “As it has turned out, Micah Sanders was more than willing to help you set your records straight.”
Gabriel blinked, then grinned. “I think he’s got a bit of hero worship going on there. I guess me threatening to kill him after I saved him didn’t have much of an impact…” He raised an eyebrow.
“He was…” Angela searched for the right words, “maybe a little over-excited when I met him earlier this morning. The new situation seemed to very much please him.”
Claire stood. “At least someone appreciates my efforts. Now, if you will excuse me, that shower is waiting.” She looked at Gabriel.
“I’m going to pick up some clothes for you, yes ma’am,” he said before she could.
Claire rolled her eyes. “Funny,” she said, disappearing in the bathroom.
The moment the door closed, Peter could feel Gabriel deflate behind him. He tilted his head back and up. “You okay, buddy?”
Gabriel appeared distracted for a moment. “Yeah, just...” Everything had changed. The world had changed. Nothing was the same. And he was not only in the middle of it, he was expected to...
Peter smiled slightly. “This shit just got real.”
That startled a laugh out of Gabriel and he smacked his friend on the back of his head. “You’re an idiot, Petrelli.” He took a step back from the chair. “Be right back.” And he was gone.
Angela studied her son intently. He looked so... content, at ease.
Peter, still smiling, caught her looking. “What?” he asked.
Angela took a deep breath, though she managed to keep it oddly restrained at the same time. “Nothing of importance.”
“Oh?” Peter said, not really believing her.
“I’d seen this coming for days but... I guess it is still an entirely different matter to see it with my own eyes.”
“You mean Gabriel?”
“I mean you and Gabriel,” she clarified.
Peter sobered, but he kept the content air about him. “You know, mom...” he stopped, the smile slowly returning. “He might not actually be your son, but he is my brother.”
Noah stared at Peter wide-eyed.
Angela just nodded, hurt reflecting in her moist eyes clear as day. Still she smiled. “I know.”
Noah twisted to her. “You’re just giving up? He killed your son, Angela!” His voice was as firm and fiery as his eyes as they bore into her. “We can’t just leave that!”
She turned her head slowly. “We have done so many people so much wrong, Noah. All in the interest of learning about abilities so we could bury them.” She pursed her lips and slowly shook her head. “It can’t be buried anymore, you know that. You can’t bury the world, the future.”
“But Sylar is still...”
“Sylar was what we made him,” she repeated what Gabriel had insinuated the night before, only coming from her, someone who was as guilty as Noah was, it hit Noah so much more. Then her tiny smile returned, still looking as if it physically hurt to think about the thing that made her smile... and it did hurt her, so very, very much. “Through our wrongdoings and too much pain he became who he needs to be today.”
Instead of just crumbling, which was something he could not let himself do, Noah snorted. “You’re saying it was his... destiny?” The irony he added to the last word was not lost on anyone.
“What would I know about destiny? My dreams are usually more immediate than that.” Her eyes lost focus for a moment. “But things do have a tendency to come around in some other way when I move to prevent them.” She focused on Noah again. “Gabriel is the most powerful of all, and because of what happened, he is now in control of his abilities and willing to protect the people we failed to protect.”
“One heck of a price to pay,” Peter muttered, first staring at the tabletop then snapping his gaze firmly to his mother. “Just to have the most powerful man on our side.”
Noah seemed to agree, but Peter wasn’t finished.
“And I’m not talking about the pain he brought onto others, mom.”
Angela’s eyes watered again, the veiled smile back in place. She evenly forced the words she had to say to her little boy past her constricted throat. “Your brother has a chance at being happy.” She swallowed and cleared her throat. “He is strong enough to stay on that track, now.”
Peter turned those words over in his mind. The now particularly catching his attention. He knew as well as anyone that Gabriel wouldn’t have been strong enough, not even a single day earlier, no matter how much he might have wanted to be... “What’s done is done,” he finally said, after a very long pause, sharing an intense look with his mother.
“A blank slate,” she agreed. “Make something of it,” she repeated her earlier words to Gabriel.
When Gabriel popped back into view in the living room, Claire had been well out of the shower for a while and was sitting at the table, wrapped in a large bath robe; Peter looked freshly showered as well, by now.
Claire’s eyes darted up. “Where the hell have you been?” she demanded, even though the really pleasant scents filling the room at least partially answered that question.
Gabriel held a waffle bag in one hand with a cup holder carrying five cups of coffee on top, one travel bag in the other and a second hanging off his shoulder. He threw the bag in his hand at Claire.
“Your roommate proved difficult to convince that you’re actually alive and unharmed.”
Claire caught the bag, widening her eyes. “Gretchen was there? What did you do?”
Gabriel sent her a ‘please’ look. “She’s fine, she was just worried out of her mind, because, apparently, your phone either didn’t survive the dive trough the water or the one off the Ferris wheel...” He raised an eyebrow. “Took me half an hour to make her believe that you’re fine, and that I wasn’t there to hurt anyone.”
Claire looked at him dubiously. “Just half an hour?”
Gabriel smirked. “I can be convincing.” He nodded towards the bag Claire was holding. “Though she didn’t trust me with your underwear drawer, so she packed for you, including some girly things she thought you might need.” He put his waffle bag on the table, the coffee next to it, and began distributing the cups. “I didn’t want to tell her where you were hiding, because walls have mice and mice have ears, but I promised I’d contact her again and eventually teleport her here. Didn’t think you’d mind...” He put the last coffee in front of Claire, holding her gaze for a moment.
Claire took her paper cup and couldn’t quite hold back the grateful light in her eyes. “Thank you.” She didn’t mean the coffee, of course, though that didn’t hurt.
So far, Noah had been startled into silence, Angela watched quietly but not as surprised as she would have expected, and Peter went to open the bag on the table.
“Did you bring breakfast?” he asked.
“Yes, since somebody doesn’t think that food is a necessary component of a kitchen.”
Peter grinned at him. “What’s in that bag?” he asked, nodding at the last bag over Gabriel’s shoulder.
“I thought I might as well...” he took it off and threw it into a corner, “get some of my things, too.” Then he went to find another chair in the kitchen and sat down between Noah and Peter (the latter of whom making room for him).
Claire sighed, deeply, as the caffeine goodness filled her. Speaking of which... she looked at her father’s cup, and, yes, the decaf box had a check. “How did you know what kind of coffee my dad drinks?” Everybody else she could explain through Nathan’s memory, but Noah...
“I don’t. But special agent Andrew Hanson does.” Gabriel grinned widely at his private joke. “That was fun.”
Noah’s lip twitched for a second before he could stop it. “Right up until you killed a guy,” was what he said out loud, however.
“I’m sure you were heartbroken,” Gabriel replied, calmly. He also knew that he himself was bothered by such things a lot more than Noah was, nowadays. “Should I remind you what happened on our second and last mission where you made a guy kill himself...?”
When Noah took a breath to counter that accusation, Peter sighed loudly and added with a bored tone, “Shut up, both of you.” He took some napkins out of the paper bag on the table and a waffle for himself. “Is there syrup in there?”
Gabriel crossed his arms. “Yes. You know… you do have plates in that sorry excuse of a kitchen of yours.”
Claire just made a grab for the bag as well, taking out a waffle and the syrup before Peter could get to it. “Don’t care about plates, I’m starving.”
Peter sent her a look. “You had pasta last night. And ice cream.”
Claire just smiled sweetly at him (literally), her mouth closing around a delicious bite of the waffle in her hand.
Angela shook her head politely when Peter offered her breakfast. Noah didn’t even think that it was worth consideration.
“When was the last time you ate something, dad?” Claire asked pointedly. At his dark look, she rolled her eyes. “Just eat a damn waffle and stop pouting. This is getting ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous? You have Sylar bring you breakfast and cook you dinner, but I’m the one who’s being ridiculous?”
Gabriel for his part didn’t seem overtly fazed by the not-quite accusation, and he poured some syrup over his waffle carefully. “You know… Matt Parkman hates my guts.”
“No surprise there,” Noah shot back.
“Not at all, no,” Gabriel agreed, raising his waffle. “And yet he let me go with Peter, yesterday, after he read my mind.” He took a bite.
Peter had to chuckle. “Man, did he hate that.”
Noah stared at Gabriel, incredulously. “Matt Parkman scanned your brain and let you go?”
“Definitely more than you did,” Gabriel couldn’t help but bite back.
Claire put her waffle on her napkin, chewing slowly. “He found… nothing? At all?”
Gabriel put down his own waffle, as well. “Okay. One…” he held up a finger, “Peter wouldn’t have let me anywhere near you if there had been even the slightest chance I’d hurt you. Two,” he added another finger, once he could be reasonably sure that the information had sunk in, “no, Parkman didn’t find anything in my head, though he did say something about that only being my twisted mind and not my heart or something, but that’s as good as it gets.”
“Not quite,” Peter disagreed, nonchalantly. “He read your mind, sure. But I’m an empath,” he turned his upper body to look at his friend, “and a paramedic.” He smirked. “And I assure you, your heart is fine.”
Gabriel sent him a look that was so full of emotion that Peter didn’t really know where to start, so he just softened his smirk into a smile and put a gentle hand on Gabriel’s chest. “Pounding away in there, all healthy,” he joked, gave the chest two solid smacks with the palm of his hand and then sat back in his seat again.
Gabriel made a mental note to thank Peter later for coming after him into his nightmare. Sure, he’d done so before, but he really, really felt he should do it again and take his time. But later… those words were for Peter alone. For now, he just smiled. “I guess I’m all set then, with you looking after my poor little heart.” His eyes twinkled and he smirked a bit.
Peter winked at him. “’S what I’m here for.” He got the message loud and clear and adapted to the playful tone, easily, with the ease and practice of long years.
After that, the topic seemed closed for them, as they both happily munched their breakfast. Claire watched them with something in her expression that she couldn’t quite put a finger on, and Angela… Angela still felt the sharp pain of letting go and the slight tinges of hope lacing it.
“That’s really sweet,” Noah said, still only having touched his coffee but none of the food.
“And all you need to know, Noah,” Peter replied calmly. “Gabriel has been checked over by a telepath and an empath, and before you say that he has to pay for what he did… he did pay in ways you can’t even imagine, never mind that you would have to pay for as much as he does.”
Noah’s jaw set. “Reformed or not, I can still question his plans, right?” He raised an eyebrow. “He wants to make Claire a celebrity, even though all she ever wanted was a normal life.”
“Normal is relative,” Gabriel said, sipping his coffee. “Hiding who and what she is is apparently not normal for her, so it’s out of the question.”
Noah directed a sharp look at Claire. “And you agree with that? You want to be… shown off?”
Claire swallowed a bite of waffle and sighed. “I jumped off a Ferris wheel in front of the assembled press. I would have thought that was a given.” She remembered the image Lydia’s tattoo had formed in front of her… remembered how right it felt, even if she hadn’t been as certain at the time. “I want things to change, and if I have to be the one to do it? So be it.”
Noah looked at her for a long time. “Alright,” he said, nodding slowly. At least there was something he could do to deal with the situation immediately at hand, even if he didn’t like the repercussions or the implied possibilities in the future. “I called Lauren, earlier, when you were in the shower,” he mentioned offhandedly. “She’ll be here in a bit and can help you with the PR nightmare you started.” He smirked. “And don’t kid yourself, it is going to be a nightmare.”
Claire smirked right back. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
Angela cleared her throat. “Have you given any thought to that evaluation you spoke of?” she changed the topic and directed the question at Gabriel. There was little time, at least just then. While Claire’s image certainly was a top priority at the beginning of their… endeavours, presenting a reasonable plan to assess Specials and as a result reassure the public was just as pressing a matter.
Gabriel turned to look at her, startled. “I… yes, but…” He had of course had several thoughts running through his head ever since he had mentioned it, but…
Angela very calmly held his gaze. “You are the person who knows the most about abilities, their effects on the owner, the psychological repercussions and the dangers.” She tilted her head. “You are the perfect choice to make that assessment.”
Gabriel blinked. “But I’m no psychologist.”
“Then we will find one to work with you,” she replied, promptly. “And anything else you will need, I’m sure can be acquired.” She let a superior little smile pull at her lips. “Just because I’m letting you youngsters take over the wheel, that doesn’t mean that I’m letting go of the strings in my hands. They will prove useful in time.”
Gabriel smirked at her. He had expected no less.
Peter grinned too and nudged Gabriel. “And it’s not like we’ll run out of money, is it?”
Gabriel wriggled his fingers and touched his napkin with his forefinger. The napkin shivered, before changing texture and reflexion, turning into solid gold. “No, we won’t,” he agreed.
He took the napkin into his hand and began bending it absently, the wafer-thin, metallic tissue moulding easily between his fingers.
“Doctor Madeline Gibson,” he suddenly said. “Police psychologist.” He nodded, staring at the shimmering napkin in his hand. “I want her.”
Angela nodded her consent; Noah crossed his arms.
“Does she have an ability?” he wanted to know.
Gabriel shook his head, the tissue in his hand slowly gaining the shape of something that might have been a flower. “No, but I seem to remember that she is an idealist and willing to adapt to new ideas. And she is…” his lip twitched, “… too trusting for her own good, but possibly just enough for us.”
Surprise visibly ran through Angela. “I’m impressed. That sounded almost like me.”
Gabriel wasn’t at all sure if that was a compliment or not. Nevertheless, he was well aware that thinking like her would most probably help him with what they needed to do, as long as he didn’t forget that the agenda had changed drastically.
“Thank you,” he said sarcastically. “It so happens that I actually liked her the short time I had to do with her and from what I remember…” which wasn’t all that much, if he was completely honest with himself, “… and she… honestly and truly wants to help people.”
Angela nodded again. “I will contact her, then.”
“You should wait until Claire did that interview of hers; it might give the doctor a head-start, so she doesn’t freak out completely.”
Gabriel thought for a second and then grinned. “I wonder if our Mister Sanders would be willing to help…” He already knew the answer to that. “I’ve been thinking… that he could help with the technological aspect of the evaluation so we could put a simplified version on the internet.”
Claire spluttered. “Are you nuts?”
“The judges are still out on that one,” he answered, raising an eyebrow, making Peter snort. “Just a simple online test,” Gabriel added. “Most results will turn out to be blanks, but some might not…” He tilted his head. “Come on, you can’t tell me you never took tests like that just for fun.”
Claire didn’t even have to think about that. “Of course I did.”
Gabriel nodded, satisfied. “Some might take the test for shits and giggles with no idea what they’re capable of, some might take it because their friends urge them to, and some might take it because they can feel that something is off with them. And if someone just happens to pop up with a situation like mine when I first manifested but before they actually do anything…” He let the end of the sentence hang in the air.
Peter looked at him with undisguised delight. “You…” he waved a finger at Gabriel, “are awesome.” He snickered and ran a hand over his face. “Online test. Man…”
Claire just shook her head and got up, shouldering her bag. “I’m going to get dressed. Don’t want to be half naked in front of the press consultant.” She lifted an eyebrow at her dad, the ‘your girlfriend’ going unsaid and went to the bathroom.
“Right…” Peter muttered, looking after her. “That reminds me.” He tapped Gabriel on the shoulder. “I’m gonna go look for that bed and couch. And maybe…” he tilted his head, speculatively, “… dunno, a curtain or something, to give Claire some privacy in there.”
Noah huffed. “You really want to hide her here of all places?” And with Sylar of all people, though he didn’t say that; he didn’t have to.
“For the time being,” Gabriel answered. “The press interviewed the two of you for an hour, and Claire had already disappeared by then. They won’t look for her in a tiny apartment of someone nobody knows is her uncle.”
Peter nodded. “And you’re here. Between the two of us, I’m pretty sure we can keep her safe, until we know where she will live.”
Gabriel’s answering nod came only after a while. “Peter… about…” He sighed. “I don’t want to presume…”
Peter snorted. “As if I’d throw you out.” Apparently the fragmented sentence pieces were enough for him to decipher what Gabriel had been trying to say. “Come on! After all this time? It would be fucking weird not having you around.” He smiled a bit.
Gabriel returned the look. It was obvious that he agreed with every fibre of his being, that he wouldn’t have wanted to leave, that he felt for Peter as Peter felt for him. Gratitude ran through him again, and he didn’t know if he would ever get the chance to thank Peter enough for, well, being him.
“Far be it from me to refuse your brand new couch.”
Peter laughed, clapped Gabriel’s shoulder and stood. “Can I trust you guys not to do anything stupid while I’m gone?”
Noah didn’t answer that, he settled for scowling at the table top. Angela for her part merely nodded, magnanimously, while Gabriel smirked.
Peter rolled his eyes at him and held out his hand. “Can I borrow a little something?”
Without a word, Gabriel took the hand, and Peter breathed deeply.
“You’re like a damn shopping centre,” Peter said, smirking, smacked a loud kiss on the top of Gabriel’s head and popped out of view, making good use of Gabriel’s newly acquired teleportation.
Angela allowed herself a tiny sigh at the display, and Noah shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Gabriel still felt too happy to do anything but grin widely for another couple of heartbeats.
“What the hell happened?” Noah demanded. “In those… what? Eight years? Since Peter wasn’t exactly forthcoming, I’d really like some answers now.”
Gabriel tilted his head in assent. “I’ll give you the short version; you can still ask questions after.”
Claire came out of the bathroom, now fully dressed. “Make it the really short version. I’ve heard it all before…” She flopped back into her seat.
Gabriel sent her a quick, amused grin. “Really short? Okay, then…” He put together the words in his head and took a deep breath. “After the whole out-of-body experience, I kind of decided that being alone wasn’t something I wanted, so I asked Parkman to bury all my powers to make me… normal.” He looked at Claire. “Sound about right?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “Just finish the damn story.” ‘And stop reminding me of things we have in common.’
“Parkman betrayed me, locked me in my worst nightmare for three hours, which happened to be three years for me, before Peter came in after me because he had a vision that I’d save his friend and the people at the carnival. We got out after another five years, and I saved Emma.” He nodded. “There. The really short version.”
Noah blinked at him.
“You can check my story with Parkman,” he considered that, “and Janice. She probably knew.”
“So what is the worst nightmare for…” a murdering, psychotic, insane monster, “… someone like you?” He didn’t have to say the words he had left out; they were plain as day in the tone of his voice.
Gabriel hesitated. He knew that Noah wouldn’t think that it was a punishment at all, would scoff and wave it off as not even nearly bad enough… and would hit Claire with his words straight in the heart. He wondered if he could get away with telling him that it was none of his damn business.
Claire had her hard, unrelenting eyes on her father. “Go ahead, Gabriel,” she said, “tell him.”
Gabriel briefly looked at her, but she didn’t return the look, so he sighed. “Being alone for the rest of eternity.”
Thankfully, Noah had noticed Gabriel’s hesitation and, together with Claire’s reaction, had come to the right conclusion… Silently, he had to admit that what the other two had apparently expected him to say was exactly what he would have said…
Claire’s eyes hardened further. “Before you say anything, you should think twice,” she cautioned.
Noah nodded. “He still deserved it.”
“He did,” Claire agreed. “And he got it, dad. He got all of it.”
Noah looked sharply at Gabriel. “Can’t help but think he would have deserved more.”
Gabriel didn’t answer. He knew well enough himself that he couldn’t hope to come close to repaying what he’d done. Nothing to do about that, though, but try anyway.
Noah huffed and returned to look at Claire. “And you just forgive him because he happens to hate the thought of being alone?”
Claire’s eyes flashed. “You have… no idea… how terrifying that can be.”
Frustrated, Noah stared at the table again. “Okay. Fine. I don’t.”
“And of course I don’t just forgive him,” Claire continued. “He has… so much to make up for; I don’t even know where to begin.” At the doubtful look her father sent her that clearly said that he didn’t think Sylar had a snowball’s chance in hell of even beginning doing that, she added, “And he has an eternity to do it.”
Noah fell silent.
“Let him,” Claire didn’t just say it, she demanded it.
Noah helplessly turned to Angela.
“Don’t look at me, Noah,” she said. “I’ve already decided to let him. We can’t afford to not make use of his... abilities.”
Claire smirked, self-satisfied. “And you…” she looked at Gabriel, “… you had better turn out to be pretty damn useful.”
Gabriel had every intention of being just that, but couldn’t help having that nagging feeling of something looming whenever Angela Petrelli was near. That woman had always had so many agendas, it was a miracle she hadn’t lost track of all of them. And Gabriel had been in the middle too often for comfort.
But now... he was needed, was asked for his ideas and opinions, was expected to take a leading role. He could be special, could be whoever he wanted to be. And for the first time in his life, Gabriel Gray wanted to be exactly what and who he was.
Doctor Madeline Gibson sat in front of her computer in her dark office, watching an online video for what felt like the millionth time, a video of a girl falling off a height that should have killed her on impact, but instead, her bones reset and her skin mended, leaving not a single mark. She had felt, ever since she had first seen this feed, that it must have been something that she had witnessed before, knew it had to be more than a mere coincidence.
And, as of earlier this day, she realised that her first impression had been right. The girl – Claire Bennet – had confirmed in an interview on national TV that she was not the only person with an extraordinary ability, and Madeline Gibson now knew without a doubt that she had witnessed the very same thing, not too long before.
Her eyes flickered to the second window open on her screen. It held the file of one Gabriel Gray. Formerly wanted for the murder of his mother, now apparently cleared of all charges.
She sighed. Despite all the things she now knew, she had no illusions whatsoever that she would not be able to get in touch with Claire Bennet, not with what she presumed must have been every single psychologist, doctor, journalist, movie director and whatnot all over the world standing in line to meet with the first ever “Special” as they had called it who was out in the open with her... ability.
She did have some hopes that maybe some others might show up sooner rather than later, and that maybe she would be able to find out what had happened to her first and rather unforgettable case.
The knock on her door startled her, but she cleared her throat and called “Enter”, nonetheless. Of all the people who could have possibly wanted something from her this late in the evening, Angela Petrelli didn’t even make the list.
Madeline, flustered, stood and rubbed her hands on her coat. “Mrs Petrelli?” she asked back, then realised that she had answered a question with yet another question and held out her hand. “Uhm, yes, I’m Doctor Gibson.”
Angela took the hand, firmly. “Angela Petrelli, yes. Good evening, Doctor Gibson.”
Madeline nodded. “Can I help you?”
Angela noticed the images on Madeline’s computer screen and smiled slightly. She tilted her head towards it. “Did the recent news interest you?”
Madeline laughed, slightly nervously. “I think there wasn’t a person in the world who wasn’t shaken by this. Ability or not.”
Angela smiled again. “Indeed.” She straightened a bit. “I will come straight to the point, then, Doctor.”
Madeline sobered and gestured Angela to continue.
“You have encountered such a... person before, as I understand it.”
Madeline blinked. She had never, and not to a single person, mentioned what she had witnessed in one dark forest. She had never talked about how bullets had been rejected by a body and the wounds had closed of their own accord in seconds. And she never had any plans of doing so, not to anyone it didn’t concern personally.
“I am not sure I know what you mean,” she said, thinking that claiming ignorance was as good a course to take as any.
“Gabriel Gray,” Angela clarified.
Madeline’s eyes widened. “What?” she breathed.
Angela ignored that. “Doctor, as I’m sure you can imagine, steps will have to be taken to ensure that Specials can be supported.” She looked at the screen. “As Miss Bennet has mentioned.”
Madeline appeared confused at the change of topic, but went with the flow, anyway. “Yes, of course. I’m sure there are a number of impacts an... ability can have on a person. If nothing else, some might need to learn how to control it. I can only imagine what would happen otherwise.”
Angela nodded. “For reasons you will learn should you accept my offer, I am somewhat in the middle of the happenings, though in not quite as influential a position as I used to hold, for better or worse,” she couldn’t help but add that last part. “And you have been suggested to be a contributor to these efforts, which is why I am here.”
“Me?” Madeline blurted out, after a second well aware how silly that must have sounded. But the mere suggestion was more than random, it was... ludicrous.
“You reacted well to new input, as it were.”
It took Madeline a moment to realise that Angela had once again returned to the topic they’d had before. “You are talking about Gabriel Gray?”
Angela did her eerie smile again, handing Madeline a card. “Among other things, we are working on an evaluation for Specials or people who might have a predisposition. If you are interested in this work, you can join us at this address tomorrow morning at your convenience.”
Madeline took the card, noticing that her hand was shaking. “I will have to check with my boss, I...”
“You will find that your schedule tomorrow has been cleared, Doctor.” Angela turned to leave. “Good night.”
“Good night,” Madeline replied to the closed door after a long moment and returned to staring at the card in her hand.
She was still (or again) staring at the card when she let her eyes roam up the Petrelli mansion at nine in the morning. She hadn’t slept for a minute that night, her thoughts continuously returning to the girl in the video and the mysterious figure that had been Gabriel Gray, wondering what their connection was, if there was one at all, where Angela Petrelli came in, and why anyone would have wanted a rookie police psychologist on board of an endeavour of international (or human, really) interests.
Determinedly she walked up to the door and rang the bell, taking a deep breath.
After only a few seconds the door opened, Angela Petrelli standing in it. “Doctor,” she greeted her pleasantly. “So glad you could make it.”
“You don’t seem surprised,” Madeline remarked, nervously.
Angela stepped to the side to let her inside. “I’m not.”
Madeline looked at her retreating back, puzzled, but followed her.
“We have quite a few revelations for you, Doctor.”
“I can imagine...”
Angela smiled over her shoulder and opened the door to something what appeared to be a study of sorts.
The first person Madeline could see through the half-open door was... “Is that... Claire Bennet?”
Claire looked up and directed a soft smile at the newcomer who tentatively entered the room.
The second person stopped her in her tracks. “Gabriel,” she whispered, seeing the man engrossed in something a teenage boy was working on with his laptop. At the mention of his name, however, he looked up, smiling at her as well and stood.
“Doctor Gibson,” he said, standing.
Madeline rushed towards him without thinking, smiling widely. “It’s so good to see you!” she said with as much feel as she could without actually yelling. She took his offered hand and – just to really know that he was there and not her imagination that had tried to answer all the questions he had raised by his short presence in her life – grasped his arm near the wrist with her free hand. “I’d been terribly worried, not knowing...” She had to break off.
Gabriel just smiled. “It’s good to see you again, too, Doctor.”
“That is a complicated story, but my memory’s returned in full.”
“I only just realised just how confusing it must have been for you, having this ability and not knowing what it was and not knowing who you are and...” Again, she was at a loss for words, waving her left hand excitedly while keeping his in her right.
“The past week must have been really confusing for you, too,” he said, calmly.
She laughed, more to release stress than actual amusement. “You could say that.”
His expression sobered and he caught her gaze. “I won’t lie to you, it’s going to get a lot more confusing, and very...” he sighed, “... painful. But there are things that you need to be made aware of before we know for sure that we can have you working with us on this project.” He covered her hand in his with his second one. “Alright?”
“Of course,” she said, not hesitating, and Gabriel realised that he’d been right about his assumption that she might be... trusting enough for what they needed her for.
“Good,” Gabriel replied, as pleasantly as he could while knowing what he would have to ease her into, later. Not that there was a way to ‘ease’ anyone into what he’d been and what he’d done. He let go of her hand. “Then we’ll see those three again later.”
Madeline appeared to only realise again now that they were not actually alone in the room. “Oh, right.” She smiled at the other three, receiving smiles of varying shades, though only the boy’s seemed genuine, Angela Petrelli and Claire Bennet on the other hand... looked like they already knew a little too well what lay ahead for Madeline.
Before Gabriel could lead her out of the room, the boy spoke up. “Doctor!” he called her and waited for her to turn around. “Don’t worry. Gabriel’s cool. You’ll be fine.”
She blinked at him. “Thank you...”
Gabriel brought her to another, smaller room with a couch, two comfortable looking chairs and a small coffee table (as well as a coffee maker on the side). Hesitantly, he closed the door.
She turned to face him, her expression completely open.
He sighed. “If at any point you feel uncomfortable or would like someone in here with us, please say so. Or...” he huffed in painful amusement, “... if you just want to blow this joint, that is your right.”
She was confused again. “Of course.”
“At any time,” he repeated. “And I’m pretty sure that there will be several moments where you’ll feel like you want one or all of the options, to be honest...”
“Alright. Uh. Coffee?”
She smiled a crooked smile. “Tea?”
Gabriel chuckled. “Of course. I’d forgotten that you prefer tea.” Thankfully the machine could do both, and we went to get himself a coffee and a tea for her.
“So...” she filled the silence. “I hear your case has been solved.”
“Yes, it has.” Gabriel had to force down the weariness at the wording. His ‘case’ was hardly more than a parody of what he truly had been capable of, and trust aside, he had no idea how Madeline would react to hearing what else had been a part of him for years.
“That’s good though, right?”
Gabriel smiled, ruefully. Apparently, hiding the weariness hadn’t been quite as successful when facing a psychologist. “It is, yes.” He turned around, both cups in hand, giving one to her. “It’s also just the tip of the ice berg, Madeline.”
She took her tea and frowned.
“While I was hurt and disappointed in my mother in that moment, I wouldn’t have actively done anything to her,” he said, haltingly and sat. “She was scared of my ability and... attacked me and... the struggle...” He couldn’t finish any of those thoughts and just sighed. “So, no, I didn’t mean to kill her and she did die in a struggle.”
Madeline blinked, her training making it look encouragingly.
“Everybody else, however...” he continued, but again stopped, searching her eyes.
“What do you mean? Everybody else?”
He had wondered before how he should deal with this, how he should tell her, how he could make it as easy as possible to her. “Some abilities are... really difficult to control. It’s downright impossible for several without some sort of training. Some do things to your mind that you couldn’t possibly understand, nor could you stop what it makes you do.”
“And it did something to you,” she guessed. “Does it have anything to do with your memory loss?”
“No, the memory loss was something else entirely.” He waved that off. “We will get to that, eventually, provided you stay for long enough...”
“What could possibly be as bad as...”
“I might not have wanted to kill my mother,” he interrupted her, “but I killed countless others.” As she widened her eyes in shock, he averted his own, cursing himself for his uncharacteristic impatience. But he just wanted it out there, he didn’t want to keep thinking about how he should say it and what her reaction might be and how the hell he could possibly deal talking to a damn therapist about having been a murderer.
For half an eternity (or so it felt to him), she couldn’t say anything to that, so he continued without looking at her: “If you want to leave or have someone come in here, by all means, say so. But I have...” He shook his head. “A telepath scanned me. As did an empath, and I... I’m of no danger to you or anyone else anymore.” He looked up. “I give you my word. Not that this will mean all that much to you at this point.”
She remained quiet, probably weighing the pros and cons of staying...
Gabriel didn’t stop. He couldn’t. “You understand now why we absolutely cannot let this happen with anyone else again? Why we have to create the means to find and help people who are a possible danger to themselves or others?”
This brought her shocked thoughts back in order. “That is what you need a psychologist for,” she realised.
Gabriel nodded. “Yes. We need an evaluation and then offer training, counselling and if absolutely necessary detainment. Letting another one like me run loose is not an option, and I will do anything to prevent it.”
She looked at him intently, assessing him and his words. She remembered Claire Bennet and the boy outside, remembered Angela Petrelli. All of which appeared to think that she was safe in the same room as Gabriel.
She remembered her own thoughts from the past night, how she would have given absolutely anything for being offered a chance to talk to Gabriel again, talk to Claire Bennet, be a part of whatever novelty the world had to offer, now that everything had changed.
When put that way, she decided, the ‘anything’ she actually had to give wasn’t all that much after all.
“Are you willing to listen?” Gabriel asked.
After another long moment she nodded, seriously. “Yes.”
The following hours were torture for both of them, pure and simple. There was a lot of crying, yelling, frustration... a lot of tea (since Gabriel switched from coffee, eventually, not that the caffeine had that much of an effect on him). Neither managed to sit still for long (even if the really emotional outbursts were as a general rule Gabriel’s and not Madeline’s), and most of the time, they were walking around the room, often to the window to breathe out the stuffy and constricting air and breathe in something new.
They completely forgot the time and forgot to eat, though the latter had much more to do with the fact that both felt too sick to eat, anyway.
Years of causing and feeling pain and re-living things that Gabriel could hardly comprehend anymore had ever been a part of him... packed into hours. Mere, horrible, incomprehensible, dizzying hours.
Gabriel had even fixed Madeline’s watch at some point, just to get his mind off things and keep his hands busy.
When the soft knock on the door came, Madeline had been sitting down for a change, watching Gabriel pace up and down the room with red eyes.
He sniffed once and rubbed his face, before calling, “Come in.”
Claire opened the door and peeked around the corner. “Hey...” she said cautiously. She hesitated when she noticed the state Gabriel was in. “Tough session?” she guessed, though it wasn’t really a question, more like an uncomfortable mention to break the silence, since she knew damn well what the ‘session’ had been about...
Gabriel answered anyway, nodding. “Yeah.”
Claire saw the look Doctor Gibson directed at her, a mixture between awe, pain, wonder and compassion, and she quickly averted her eyes, stepping into the room fully. “Uh. There will be dinner in half an hour...” she said, sounding nonchalant. She looked at Gabriel. “I figured you guys might want to get out of here and some air before you’re in any state to stomach something.” A small, crooked smile tugged at her lips.
“Yeah...” the word escaped Gabriel in one almost explosive breath, and he rubbed his face again. “I... Excuse me,” he said, rushing towards the door. “I really do need some air,” he said, looking back at Madeline. “If... that is okay? I will see you at dinner?”
Madeline didn’t have it in her to stop him and nodded, jerkily. Once he was out of the room, she laughed, breathily. “I’m not sure at all if half an hour will be enough for the stomach to settle...”
Claire licked her lips, nervously. “You should eat. It’s after six, and you’ve been here since nine, only drinking tea.” She lifted an eyebrow.
Madeline nodded, but she stopped Claire when the young woman made an attempt to leave. “Claire...”
Claire turned back to her.
“Could you... please take a seat? Just for a moment?”
Claire didn’t like that in the least, but did so, anyway. Her sitting down looked a bit like she expected the chair to bite her, however.
Madeline cleared her throat. “I am ready to help you with this project.” She couldn’t hold back an incredulous laugh. “I would be insane not to... This is... amazing and terrifying in similar amounts.”
Claire smiled. That reaction she could deal with. “At least you see the amazing part, too...”
“Gabriel has already agreed to counselling.” She slowly shook her head, as if amazed that his mind had survived what he’d been through, coming out on the other end... well... more intact than it had been before. “Since he very obviously needs it.” Her eyes found Claire’s. “And I’m afraid I have to insist that you agree to the same, Claire.”
Claire’s expression froze.
Madeline held up a hand. “Before you answer, you need to be aware that should you claim that you don’t need counselling after what you’ve been through... that is a sure sign that you actually do.” She paused. “And I know you are aware of that.”
Claire scowled a bit, the wind effectively knocked out of her counter-argument. Of course she knew that, intellectually, but...
“I understand...” Madeline continued, after she was satisfied that Claire had apparently understood what she had tried to tell her, “that it is difficult for people who have to live through terrible ordeals to see them abstractly as what they are – something that needs support and, yes, therapy. It’s your life, not some case in a psychology school book.”
Claire considered that. “I guess it’s just... when you’re living it, you have to deal, and you do.” She shrugged, uncomfortably.
“Just answer me this,” Madeline encouraged her, “if someone came to you, telling you your life’s story had happened to them... would you think that person needed counselling?”
Claire smiled ruefully. “Can’t really deny that.”
Madeline smiled back, understanding.
“The thing is...” Claire continued, shifting in her seat, “if I start digging around in what happened to me, I will start questioning people, people I imperatively have to work with, now. And Gabriel is only one of them.” She considered that. “And I use ‘questioning’ in the loosest possible terms.” She sent Madeline a telling look.
Madeline sighed. “I understand. But, Claire, you can’t just not deal what has been done to you. In a worst case scenario, whatever you’re burying under that strength that you undoubtedly possess, will break free when it can do damage to you, the other person and possibly the project.”
Claire swallowed. That was exactly why she thought burying everything as deeply as possible would have been easier. If you never allow yourself to think about something, it couldn’t possibly resurface, could it?
She closed her eyes for a second. Even in her own mind, that sounded ridiculous.
“It is perfectly alright to be angry at someone for something they did in the past, while acknowledging what they are doing in the present is good,” Madeline stated, calmly.
Claire’s clear, green eyes watered. “I don’t know if I can ever stop being angry at Gabriel,” she admitted. Her father was easier, in the end, she had always forgiven him, it was like her default setting. Her default setting concerning Sylar on the other hand had been very, very different.
It still hurt thinking of the same brown eyes that looked at her with understanding, now, had not so long ago burned fear into her soul, caused fiery anger and pain. The hands that had held her and guided her out of her nightmares on four of the last seven nights, had cut into her head in the past, had killed her parents, had ended so many lives.
She wasn’t even entirely convinced that the changes were for real, even though Peter, Angela, Hiro, and even Matt Parkman in a rather uncooperative way, all agreed that they were. If she hadn’t wanted to believe so badly, she wouldn’t even have considered it.
Madeline smiled again. “I guess the question is, then... Do you want to?” Her smile told Claire that she knew the answer to that already.
Claire huffed, annoyed at her own transparency, at Madeline for reading it... at the universe at large. “I mean, he’d be a great guy, if he wasn’t who he is.” That. Yes. Definitely another thing to be annoyed at.
“We are who we become, Claire. He wouldn’t be who he is, if it wasn’t for who he was.”
Claire crossed her arms. “It sucks.”
Madeline had to laugh again, as some of her tension left her. “Oh, yes! I know I haven’t been on this job for long, but I can confirm that this is by far the suckiest situation I’ve ever seen.”
Claire laughed with her.
When they left the room and Claire led Madeline to look out the glass door of the back terrace, they found Gabriel outside as well, being held in a tight hug by another who was quietly talking to him.
Madeline took in the scene. “I’m guessing that must be Peter.”
Claire nodded. “Peter is...” she tried to find the right word.
Claire laughed a bit. “Yeah. That about sums it all up.” That was something Peter had always been, in one way or another, to one person or another, at one time or another. To Gabriel, Peter was... the beginning of everything, his whole life. Claire was somewhat impressed that Peter could deal with so much weight on his shoulders. Then again... the way Peter was smiling whenever Gabriel was in his element, taking part of the happenings, working with and helping Micah, slowly taking his first steps and taking control of his life that for the first time was his own... Maybe Peter got as much in return.
“As are you, you know,” Madeline said, quietly.
Claire sighed. While Peter held the weight of Gabriel, she had thought it fitting to take on the whole world. “And I guess that’s one reason I should be... mentally stable,” she finished the thought she was sure Madeline was thinking.
Madeline laughed a bit. “You learn fast.” She looked at Claire sideways. “I got the impression that Peter might have a little too much of a saviour in him. I think it wouldn’t hurt if we made sure that he realises that thinking of himself every now and then wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
Claire turned to her side, leaning against the glass, crossed her arms and returned the look, somewhat impressed. “I can see why Gabriel wanted you here.”
Madeline inclined her head. “Thank you,” she said, smiling benignly, though she could only just hold back a snort at the compliment, making Claire laugh a bit, anyway. “As did your... grandmother? Since she agreed. Which, I guess, is a good thing...?”
“Angela is my grandmother, yes,” Claire confirmed the first not-quite-question. “She’s not talking about her dreams much, these days. She just... seems to think that we’re on track. Whatever the hell track that is.” She huffed. “And if Hiro Nakamura didn’t look so damn pleased with how things are going, I’d be worried.”
“Your grandmother is some sort of a sore spot,” Madeline acknowledged. “As I understand it, there are a lot of those.”
“You don’t wanna know,” Claire said. “But you will anyway.” She smirked.
“Hey! What are you two moping around in here?” an enthusiastic Micah asked from behind them.
Claire grinned at him. “We’re not moping around, we’re discussing matters of international security.”
Micah snorted. “Sure you do.”
Claire laughed. “Madeline Gibson, this is Mica Sanders, our computer specialist,” she introduced them properly, this time.
Micah took Madeline’s hand, beaming. “Did Gabriel tell you about the test? This is going to be so cool! We’re actually planning on creating hand-helds just for that, to use at the institute, once they have everything set up. And the online test will be awesome!”
Madeline couldn’t help but return the smile. “We haven’t really... discussed the plans, yet.”
Micah’s face fell. “Oh. You just dealt with the nasty stuff?” At her nod, he shrugged. “You’ll have something to look forward to, then.” He grinned at her and opened the glass door.
“You didn’t have anything to do with... Sylar, did you?” Madeline wanted to know. Gabriel hadn’t mentioned the boy.
“Yes, I did,” Micah promptly replied, his eyes defiant. “He saved my life.” With that, he ducked outside.
Madeline turned to Claire, puzzled. “Did he really mean Sylar? Or Gabriel?”
“No, he meant Sylar.” Claire shifted, uncomfortably. “He saved me, too, the one time...” she grudgingly admitted. “Peter, Angela... Not sure if there are more. Maybe. Probably not.”
Madeline crossed her arms. “I’m beginning to think that Sylar is more complex than Gabriel implied.”
“I really don’t know.” Claire absently shook her head. “I mean, I wasn’t exactly in a position to notice any subtle nuances he might have had.” She huffed and rolled her eyes. “But I guess... Gabriel wanted to get the monster out of the way, first. You can work through the complexity, later.”
“But make no mistake, Sylar was a monster, and him saving someone was the very rare exception and definitely not the rule.”
“I have no doubt.” And she really didn’t. “But to help him through what he’s done, the way he sees things is as important as the way things are from an outside perspective.”
Claire nodded, again. “Makes sense. I mean... I never viewed his saving my life as, you know, him saving my life. It was just Sylar showing up where I didn’t want him.”
Madeline smiled. “You realise that, as far as being angry at him goes, you’re actually doing spectacularly well, all things considered.”
“Still not going to be easy.”
“No,” Madeline said, not sounding as if she thought that that was necessarily a bad thing. She tilted her head towards the door. “Dinner?”
Claire smiled a bit tiredly. “Dinner.”
During dinner, Madeline could catch a glimpse at the project Micah was so excited about.
The hand-held device Micah had mentioned was supposed to take readings of the person taking the test and recording them. Things such as hesitation, heart rate, perspiration and breathing. “Like a lie detector,” he had said. Those results would be evaluated together with the questions that were answered, comparing the body’s reaction to what the mind told them.
It wasn’t even necessarily to detect lies, but to uncover truths that the person taking the test might not be completely aware of. Point out psychological difficulties that they were suffering from, troubles with integration, seclusion, even depression... all of which could, if untreated, result in violent outburst that had the capacity to become lethal, depending on the ability.
Of course, there was still the possibility to use telepathy or other extra-sensory information, if the results remained inconclusive.
The online test was a different matter entirely. Madeline found out very quickly that Gabriel’s mind was amazing when it came to understanding the motivations of people (amongst an infinite number of other things). That test – while being inherently simpler – would have to be able to recognise people trying to fool the system or trying to make fun of the system, without letting them know that it did that. They were even discussing possibilities to have the system recognise a potentially manifesting Special, even though they answered untruthfully. That was something that would have been easier to recognise while using a polygraph, but Gabriel’s ideas on how to trick the users with particular questions and questioning patterns were quite fascinating.
Not to mention that watching Gabriel work with ideas and other people and the prospects of a new future was also calming Madeline’s own mind. Naturally, there was always the possibility of patients fooling their psychologist – and with someone like Gabriel, who put his ability to manipulate to good use in their discussions about the evaluations, it would have been even more of a possibility – watching him interact, seek approval, glow when he got it, being openly affectionate and caring...
Yes. She could work with this, even if it shook her previous understanding of law enforcement quite a bit.
There would be no trial and no sentence for Sylar. As far as official records were concerned, Sylar didn’t even exist, his victims random and unconnected tragedies. And what sentence would even be appropriate? How could imprisonment be a suitable punishment for someone who had an eternal life ahead of him? It would be no more than a blip in time. Certainly, he could be forced into therapy for criminally insane, but how did one treat an insanity that was no longer present?
As far as Madeline was concerned at this point, Gabriel had been punished in a way that would even have to be considered an inhumane torture method, a way that had inadvertently turned out to be the right and quite possibly only way to cure the insanity rampaging through his mind, caused by an ability that he had no control over.
Not to mention that the man was essential for their work, and she now knew that there had to be innumerable Specials all over the world that needed help, that would have needed help for a long time already, that could no longer go without it, now that signs of abilities would be more easily recognised by the persons affected as well as their associates.
She hoped with all her might that she was right, that her assessment and the assessments of the other people involved when it came to Gabriel would not turn out to be a terrible mistake.
But as things were now, applying the current knowledge, she was convinced that she could do the right thing in good conscience.
She put her faith not only in Gabriel Gray, but Claire Bennet and Peter Petrelli, as well. They formed an unusual but intriguingly effective… trinity.
Despite the joined dinner, Gabriel only returned home at almost midnight, hours after Peter and Claire had left the Petrelli mansion.
Towards the end of his talk with Madeline, the mood had calmed down considerably, and there had been the odd smile every now and then, Gabriel now being the one to calm her as much as the other way around.
He had even hugged her, murmuring a quiet, “It’s going to be okay, I promise,” into her hair, to which she agreed with a wavering, “You’re just changing the world, after all.” A soft answering smile and sigh. “That we are.”
Gabriel appeared in the small kitchen finding Peter pouring himself a drink, two female voices audible from the living room.
“Hey, everything okay?” Peter asked.
Gabriel nodded. “I think we’re... going to be.”
Peter smiled. “Of course you will.”
Gabriel huffed a tired laugh and shook his head. “Ever the optimist.”
“It pays,” Peter just said, grinned and sat down with a book.
Gabriel left the kitchen, smiling at Claire and Gretchen sitting on the couch, going through something that looked like a schedule. “Good evening, ladies.”
Claire did manage a smile for him, a tiny one, after a week of sharing a home (and sometimes a bed). Gretchen on her part appeared closer to ecstatic, being fascinated way more than afraid, ever since he had talked her into believing that Claire was unharmed and that she would soon see her friend again. Well, that and him keeping his word helped.
“Hey, there, how was therapy?” Gretchen asked, unabashed.
Gabriel grinned. He liked her direct way of saying whatever was on her mind without worrying. He enjoyed that even more, because he knew that she was well aware of what and who he had been, but didn’t fear asking a reformed killer of his progress after his first session of therapy.
Claire bit her lip, holding back a laugh.
“Tough,” he said. “But there was talk about the administrative angle we have to deal with, too.” He raised an eyebrow. “I’m guessing you were the one to dabble in Claire’s press plan, again?”
“Well...” Gretchen tilted her head. “Lauren is really good at spinning stories to tell, but, well... not so much when it comes to spinning the journalists themselves. Choosing the right ones and all that.” She reached for a stack of papers. “I did some reading and looked into the networks, and there should be some more interviews in the next few days. Maybe something more approachable, now that you’ve made a stand.” She looked up. “What?”
Gabriel smirked. “We might as well hire you as our PR manager.”
She pulled an incredulous face. “Yeah. Right. I don’t think so. I know enough about this stuff to know that I don’t know enough about it.” She held up some papers and threw them back on the table. “That, and unlike this one, I plan on actually staying in college.”
Gabriel shrugged, a mischievous smile playing on his face. “Students always want part time jobs, don’t they?”
Gretchen smirked at him, fearlessly amused, leaned back and crossed her legs. “How much?”
Claire burst out laughing.
Gabriel theatrically pondered that for a second and then held up his finger. “One moment.” He went to the kitchen, opening a small side drawer with some assorted napkins and rarely used cutlery in it. He reached into the back and pulled something out, making Peter snicker.
“Charming the ladies?”
Gabriel winked at him and went back to ‘the ladies’, holding his gift in hand. “Just a token, my lady.”
Gretchen took the little gold flower, delicately. “Wow... is that?”
Gabriel took a bow. “Pure gold, for your pleasure, of course.”
“Shut up already!” Claire pleaded, mirth dancing in her eyes, despite the outcry. “Show off.”
Gretchen happily twirled the flower between her fingers. “Hey, he can show off all he likes, if I get more of those.”
Gabriel straightened and ran a hand through his hair. “Seriously, though, we can trust you and you have a... busy mind. If you want to help out, we can use you.” At Gretchen’s snort because of the ‘busy mind’ comment and Claire’s almost content smile, his eyes roamed over first the couch and then to the bedroom.
Claire rolled her eyes. “Just get your ass in bed before you fall over,” she said, sounding slightly annoyed, though mostly to gloss over the fact that she offered him her bed, since she was occupying the living room where the only other alternative to sleep was located.
For once, Gabriel didn’t argue like he usually did whenever Claire did something for him (usually he refused with a comment that she didn’t have to do anything for him, because he would owe her until the end of eternity) and just smiled ruefully. “Night, then,” he said and disappeared into the bedroom, with a flick of his fingers closing the curtains he and Peter had hung up on their first day in the apartment together.
“Night, Gabriel,” Gretchen said, cheerfully; Claire merely sighing in relief when he closed the door.
Gretchen turned to her. “What?”
Claire sent her a look. “Are you serious?”
Gretchen shrugged. “I dunno. You two seem to get along well enough, considering...”
“Yeah, well, that’s a whole lot to consider.”
Gretchen returned the look for a long moment. “Wanna talk about it?”
Claire blinked. “You know... the last time you said that, you were him.”
Greatchen laughed. “Did he do a good impression of me?”
“I did fall for it...” She raised an eyebrow, then she sighed. “I just... I don’t know. I keep waiting for something to happen. To go wrong.”
Gretchen inclined her head. “Can’t really say I’m surprised.”
Peter entered the room from the kitchen.
Claire’s eyes flickered up. “But you are, aren’t you?” she accused her uncle.
“Not at all, no,” he replied, honestly. “I’m... actually really happy with the way it’s going. You’re... giving him something of a chance, and he’s... doing really well.”
“But?” Claire prompted.
Peter half-shrugged. “I can’t help but wonder what he would be like today, if somebody had helped him earlier. None of the guilt and the pain.”
Gretchen crossed her arms, careful not to crush the flower. “He’d probably be dead; he couldn’t help Specials of all colours and shades as effectively, because he wouldn’t understand them quite as well; he couldn’t have saved the people at the carnival; and there would always be the danger of his monster waking, because he wouldn’t have an inkling of an idea of the danger lurking inside him, and nobody would know about it or would recognise the signs.” She finished her list, nodding satisfied.
Peter had to acknowledge that. “Yeah, but... he could just happily live a normal life. Who the hell would want a past like his?”
Gretchen though about that. “Nobody, of course, and I don’t know him well or anything, but... he’d keep looking for something, always.”
“What if he had found something? Support, family, friends? Someone to help him deal with his ability?”
Gretchen smiled, sadly. “There wasn’t anyone who would have understood him.” Her smile widened. “For anyone else, now there will be.”
Peter’s eyes went to the glass wall, his thoughts behind the curtain.
“See, I get what you’re saying,” Gretchen said. “He did horrible things, and both he and everyone around him had and still have to pay. But... and I know that sounds awful...” She squinted at Claire, not really daring to look at her. “But with the way things are now, with all of these news out in the open, he really, really needs to be exactly the way he is now, so...”
Claire’s jaw set. “You think Sylar was a necessary evil.” It was a statement, not a question.
Gretchen sighed. “Don’t you?” she finally said. “I mean, this only just started a week ago, and already I have no clue whatsoever how the situation could be dealt with without someone who has been at the lowest possible point and knows how to get out of it. It doesn’t hurt that he just gets all the machinations and how all aspects interact, either.”
Claire knew that this was true, she knew, but... “He didn’t kill your father.”
“No,” Gretchen nodded and looked at Peter. “But his brother.” At Peter’s soft smile, she continued with, “And if they were any closer, they’d be married,” making Peter chuckle, ruefully.
Claire snorted. “You’d probably like that...”
Gretchen grinned widely. “It’s a nice visual,” she said, cheerfully.
Peter very much wanted to laugh out loud and had to settle for doubling over, his hand clasping over his mouth, since he didn’t want to wake his friend next door, whom he could sense was already deeply asleep.
Gretchen looked at Claire, expectantly. “Well?”
Claire played along, while having to admit that both of the men were intriguingly attractive. She deliberately contemplated Peter.
Peter held up a finger. “Don’t even...”
“You do know how to handle him,” Claire said, making Gretchen giggle.
It did feel kind of good, Claire had to admit, making fun of the team dynamics, even if they included the man asleep in the other room. It even felt almost comforting doing the same with him present.
But she couldn’t help but... feel as if something was lying ahead. As if they were just waiting for the one word, the one wrong step, the tiny little thing that would rip open a wound and change everything.
She wanted to believe. Believe in herself and in Gabriel, both in equal amounts. She hoped that would be enough.
It wasn’t like Peter didn’t see it coming. He had expected Claire to eventually blow up. That was just how things were. Gabriel had done horrible stuff to her, and even though she was trying – had been trying for two months, now – Peter always knew that one particularly bad day, all it would take was Gabriel saying something that made her remember that.
Apparently, today was that day. Peter wasn’t particularly worried, he just hurt for both of them and wanted to get home within the blink of an eye it took him. His mother’s words that he should keep Claire from storming out of the apartment or Gabriel from being forced to not let her didn’t really help.
So, yeah, the day had been bad. For one, Claire had had a particularly annoying journalist she hadn’t been able to avoid.
Then there had been the really bad part. A young girl had been found near a forest, starved and half-dead. She’d been brought to a hospital... and then it had turned out that she was a Special, capable of producing heat, who had nearly lost her life because the recluse religious sect her parents had been part of had been trying to exorcise the devil from her.
The girl, Judith, had refused to speak to any men, once she was capable of forcing any words past her chapped and dry lips, and since Madeline couldn’t get there quite soon enough, Claire had been the one listening to the girl ramble for hours about how she was an abomination, a spawn of the devil, better off dead than a shame to her parents by being a vessel of the perversity coursing through her.
Claire had never – and she did mean never, which included Sylar at his worst – felt as much hatred towards anyone as towards the girl’s parents and the people doing this to her. She wanted to kill them, plain and simple. Or maybe not plain and simple. She wanted to rip them to pieces and cursed whatever deity seemed fit to only bestow the most defensive of all defensive powers upon her. She wanted to hurt them, break them from the inside long before she could see any visible signs on the outside apart from their gurgled screams.
When Madeline arrived, that realisation had hit Claire, she had stormed out of the room – according to Angela – which was when Gabriel had stepped in, leading Claire out of eye-sight and teleporting her home.
Peter could only guess in the split second before getting home that realising how the knowledge of how close to a killer she could be had stirred whatever Claire had been quietly trying to deal with, and then some. She would understand... would understand just how easy it could get to give in.
He appeared in the kitchen, hearing Claire yelling. As he had thought, her own thoughts made her remember what Sylar had been, had done. And all it had taken was a flick of his fingers. How could she trust someone when she herself had been so close, might actually have done something, had she had the powers to make it easy.
“Just, please, Claire, let me get Peter!” Gabriel tried to reason with her.
“Peter can’t want me to stay here any longer! Not with you! Not anymore!”
Peter rushed out of the kitchen. “Claire!” He held up a hand. “Easy.”
Gabriel sighed in relief.
“No!” Claire was close to tears. Tears of anger, frustration, fear, heartbreak at her own doubts. “I need to get out!”
“And we’ll get out. Just...” Peter thought fast. “Just put on something less stuffy, and I’ll take you.” He looked at her hopefully. “Alright?”
Claire all but ran into the bedroom, slammed the door and ripped the curtains closed, angrily.
Now Peter could deal with the one who was left. “You okay?” he whispered, making sure Claire wouldn’t hear him.
Gabriel just nodded. “I’ve been kind of waiting for that, actually...” He smiled a trembling smile, not feeling it, at all.
“I heard what happened at the hospital...”
“It was...” Gabriel took a shuddering breath. “God, Peter, that girl...”
Peter nodded. “Yeah I heard. And Claire...?”
Gabriel huffed. “She was burning with hatred.” He rubbed his face. “And she thinks she would have killed the whole lot of those sick assholes – who, by the way, will be facing charges – except that...” He shook his head, smiling a bit. “She wouldn’t have, Peter. I know.”
Peter’s eyes lit up just a bit. “No?”
“No.” He half-shrugged. “Her thoughts were completely normal, considering. Just some person, wishing they could kill. Most people have that at some point.”
Peter stepped closer. “Come here,” he said, pulling Gabriel into a tight hug.
“I know you’re still afraid because of that future you saw,” Gabriel mumbled into Peter’s shoulder. “But it’s not in her. I felt it. Even if she’d had all my powers and those people right there... she wouldn’t have done it.”
“Just freaked her out, huh?”
When Claire ripped open the curtains, again, Peter stepped back from Gabriel. “You’re going to be okay?” he had to make sure.
Gabriel smiled at him. “Sure. Don’t worry.”
Claire glared at Gabriel, just because Peter apparently did worry about the man, but only a second later, they disappeared from the living room.
Gabriel let himself drop onto the couch and put his face in his hand. Yes, he was going to be okay. But, damn, it hurt.
Thankfully, the pain only made him want to keep going. It wasn’t like he thought he didn’t deserve being shaken a little, would have deserved a lot more than a furious Claire. He just knew that no matter how often she yelled at him that she wanted him gone and out of her life in the past hour, that was the one thing he could never do.
He rested his head on the back of the couch and sighed.
“Well, Nathan. What would you have me do, now?” He huffed. “Other than get the hell out of your daughter’s life.”
He had no illusions about the forgiveness of a guy he had killed, but he had also spent a long time as Nathan Petrelli… long enough to still feel a connection, to somehow be certain that Nathan would want to know Claire was safe and would want someone loyal to her make sure of that, even if that someone turned out to be Gabriel…
Yes, Gabriel was sure that Nathan wouldn’t want him to abandon Claire, not as long as he was the safest and the most powerful choice. All those powers and the price everyone including himself had to pay for them had to be good for something, for fuck’s sake!
He stared at the ceiling for a long time before he stood. He really needed to be somewhere else right now…
Claire turned around her own axis the moment she had solid ground under her feet again. “Where are we?” she asked in a tone she usually didn’t use on her uncle, but was still way too heated and angry to suppress.
“Way out, way away, with lots of space to walk and vent.”
Claire glared at him. “I don’t need you to patronise me!”
Peter swivelled to look at her. “On the contrary. I think, right now, you do.” Those words from him made her freeze in her tracks. “You know as well as I do that your little outburst didn’t have a thing to do with anything Gabriel did,” he accused coldly.
Her glare intensified. “Oh, so him killing God knows how many people doesn’t warrant anger just because he hasn’t done it in a while?”
“Gabriel is not Sylar, and I know you know that.”
“And who’s to say he’s not coming back?!” she all but screeched into the wasteland.
“He does. I do.” He paused. “Hiro Nakamura does.”
“I don’t care! He still took my father from me! My mother! Even Becky! I can’t, Peter, I can’t!”
Peter knew that. Of course he did. He himself had lost... enough. “Claire. He will never do anything to hurt you again. Ever.”
“It doesn’t change anything. Every time I look at him, I still see...”
Peter nodded. “I know the feeling.” He smiled, ruefully. “And, hey, I got to that revelation after five years. It only took you two months.”
Claire didn’t know what to say to that. She knew that it must have had something to do with Gabriel and Peter leaving their prison, since Peter said five years, but exactly what had happened she hadn’t been told.
Peter sighed. “You have no idea just how much he’s hurting over what he did to you. Or me,” he added as an afterthought.
“Why?” she asked sarcastically. “You keep telling me that it’s in the past and that he’s not that guy anymore,” she dared him to argue her point.
“The past still hurts you.”
Some of the anger left her, and her shoulders sagged. “Why should he care,” it wasn’t even a question, much more the only thing she knew to say to express just where one of the cores of her true fears lay, without knowing she expressed it. “Just because he’ll have to spend eternity with an unchanging cheerleader?”
Peter hesitated, and Claire noticed it. It wasn’t really any of Peter’s business, even though he knew that Gabriel trusted him with this information, trusted that Peter would know when to say what and to whom, never giving the man any guidelines, merely expecting Peter’s good judgement to make the right decision. And a decision Peter had to make, now.
“Because he loves you.”
Claire rolled her eyes, not even giving this a thought. “Yeah, right.” Gabriel might not have been Sylar, but he was still a far cry from concepts such as love.
“Do you believe that he loves me?” Peter asked, calmly. “Although that is admittedly not exactly the same thing...” His lips twitched.
“Of course he loves you.”
Peter tilted his head. “So exactly what is your point, here? Is he not capable of love, or are you not worthy of it?”
Claire crossed her arms and didn’t deign this with a response.
“I guess it’s time you realise that not only is he no longer Sylar, he is Gabriel.” He huffed and threw up his arms. “I don’t even know what you should realise about yourself, though. But, seriously, something’s really wrong in that head of yours.”
“You told me...” she began slowly, “... that I would become a cold-blooded killer in the future. That I would... kill you without hesitation, point a gun at a little boy...”
“No. I told you that it was a possibility. The present has changed so much, already...”
“But I still have it in me!”
Peter perched up. Ah.
“So maybe he does love me. You know. Takes one to know one.” Her voice was cold and cutting. And very painful.
“It does,” Peter agreed. “Do you really think you would have killed those girl’s parents? The other assholes of that sect?”
Claire’s eyes widened. “How did you...” It was one thing for Gabriel to know the monster in her, but Peter... Peter shouldn’t, couldn’t know!
Peter inclined his head. “Mom sent me home. She thought you might combust a bit.”
Claire felt sick and turned away. Angela, too... Yes, well, Angela at least didn’t have any room to talk.
Peter walked closer to her. “Gabriel told me...”
“It’s not in you, Claire,” he said softly, shaking his head. “Not in this timeline.”
“He’s wrong!” Her eyes stung, her throat constricted.
Peter put his hand on her shoulder. “We all get angry, Claire. You wouldn’t have done it.”
Her tears fell.
“It takes one to know one. And you are not one,” he concluded firmly. “He could see it and feel it.” Slowly he put her arms around her, turned her and held her close. “And you know why?”
Claire let herself be held and buried her face in his jacket, tears falling silently.
“Because you don’t have to be. Not this time. You know that you will never be alone.” He pressed her closer when she shook. “You didn’t have that in the future I saw. Nobody could give you eternity, could stand by you.”
She closed her eyes, letting herself feel his words, not thinking.
“You know what Gabriel said to me in that future? Right before he... blew up?” He huffed in amusement at his words, which he could now do that it wouldn’t happen. “He said ‘Save us’. He said us, Claire. And I think that’s what we did. You. Him. So many others.”
“But not the boy,” she managed to get out.
“Maybe later, then. It’s not like Gabriel doesn’t have the time.”
Claire took a deep breath. “Just please tell me he wasn’t mine,” she choked.
Peter ran a soft hand over her hair. “I choose to believe that you wouldn’t have pointed a gun at your own kid, no matter how far gone you were.” He rolled his eyes unseen. “And I never should have told you his name, in the first place.”
That made Claire laugh and finally step back from the comforting hug. “Yeah...” she wiped her eyes. “That wasn’t exactly a smart move.”
Peter smiled a bit at her. “Wanna get drunk?”
“I can’t get drunk,” she reminded him, but smiled back.
Peter shrugged. “We could have fun trying...” He sighed. “And I really think we should talk some more before we go back.”
Claire swallowed. “Yeah, I guess.”
Peter held out his hand and they both disappeared when she took it.
In the end, they didn’t go get drunk, but sat somewhere in backwater central, in the back corner of a diner, drinking coffee.
It hadn’t taken Claire a long time to start feeling bad for her outburst, and Peter so clearly radiating love for Gabriel made that feeling stronger, leaving only a stale taste of guilt.
“I wish I had five years to get used to him...” Claire said, after nearly two hours of talking finally getting to one of the core problems.
“I don’t recommend the method used on us, though.”
Peter sighed. “We could pop by Madeline. You could use another talk with someone who is a little more impartial than I am,” he said, ruefully.
And just like that, Claire was reminded of what had started her breakdown in the first place. “Madeline is kind of busy with Judith, right now.”
Peter nodded. “I guess.” He hesitated before voicing what was churning in his mind. “There will be more cases like that one.”
Claire clasped her cup. “I know.” There had been similar cases, already. The ones where the Special could only be found dead were even worse still, but at least nobody could get an account of what had happened from the victim anymore.
“But this case will make a stand. Once this gets out, people will be abhorred by such behaviour that they hopefully want to distance themselves from it.”
Claire nodded, absently. “More might speak up.”
“Exactly.” He took a deep breath. “But that is something we can deal with, are already dealing with. Matt’s on the case.”
Claire pursed her lips. “My issues are not something that the Company can deal with. I get it.”
“You don’t need dealing with, you just need dealing.” He grinned.
Claire smiled back, weakly. “How did you not go insane in there?” she asked, frowning. “I mean, I’m going crazy out here, knowing what he’s done. But you... you didn’t have anyone else, no distraction, nothing. Just him.”
“Well, then I guess it must have been him who kept me from going insane...” He lifted an eyebrow, expectantly.
Claire didn’t answer, just stared into an empty middle distance.
“I know you can see how good a friend he can be. He is one to me, and he is trying very hard with you.” He smiled. “He helped me through it, like he helps you now.”
A smile tugged at Claire’s lips. “Well, seeing as we’re sharing a bed more often than not these days, it’s probably not exactly the same way, I’d imagine.” She had grown so used to Gabriel’s presence that it should have frightened her, only that it usually didn’t. Today being a very explosive exception. The situation as a whole... was a different matter entirely.
Peter huffed in amusement, but avoided her eyes, as if he was looking for the right thing to say, or considering the merits of not saying anything at all, and then finally coming to the conclusion that he should really, really shut up... But as it often is with such matters, seconds long contemplations don’t go unnoticed.
Claire blinked and then frowned, and then her eyebrows went up. “No!” he burst out, unable to keep in the glee tingeing the voice.
Peter frowned, angry at himself for apparently being a horrible liar even if he didn’t say anything at all. “It wasn’t like that!” he protested something he as of then hadn’t even been accused of.
Claire held back a laugh behind a hand. “Are you kidding me? ‘It’s not what it looks like’? Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got?”
Peter, now clearly agitated, shifted on his seat. “It was just the one time...”
“Oh, my God! You’re serious! Oh, this is too good!” Her sudden mood change would have encouraged Peter in any other situation. Not in this one though. “It’s like... you were literally the last two people on the planet, so...” She laughed again.
“It wasn’t... it’s like... Oh, God.” Peter hid his face in his hands, groaning mortified.
Claire leaned forwards on the table. “Okay, spill, I want details.”
“Details?” Peter squeaked.
His horrified expression and the tone of his voice made Claire crack up, tension flowing out of her with every passing second.
Peter let her laugh and finally leaned back in his seat in defeat. “It was just the one time,” he repeated.
It wasn’t even all that funny, but after the day she’d had, Claire just couldn’t stop laughing and broke out into another fit of giggles at the sentence.
Peter rolled his eyes. “It’s not that funny!” he protested, voicing Claire’s thoughts.
“Yes, it is,” she contradicted, anyway. Because it certainly felt funny. Then she tilted her head, looking at him with what she hoped was an encouraging expression.
Peter just snorted. “We had a fight about two years in. A pretty bad one...” he began. “And then things got a little... heated.”
Claire snorted, this time. “Yeah, I bet. And?”
“What do you mean ‘and’?” he demanded, indignant. “I just told you, it was just the once!”
“Yeah, but what happened?”
Peter pulled an incredulous face that made Claire laugh again. “Did you seriously just ask me that? I can’t believe you asked me that! What do you want to know? Who was on top? How often? What position? Jesus, Claire!” He was at that point very clearly blushing.
Claire’s face was red from laughing too much or unsuccessfully containing the same. “I just...” she laughed, again, “... I really just wanted to know how far it went, but you just answered that, didn’t you?”
Peter put his head on his folded arms on the table and groaned, again. “Oh, dear God, just kill me, now.”
Claire poked his arm with a finger and waited until he peeked up. “Why didn’t it happen again?”
Peter sighed and straightened. “Because it wasn’t what either of us wanted.” It really was the only answer he could give. “Well, apart from that one time, obviously.” He smiled an ironic smile. It looked like Peter had found his humour again...
“I like him being my sort of brother-friend. That’s really all we want from each other.”
Claire raised an eyebrow. “I guess he wasn’t that good in bed then...”
Peter coughed loudly and crossed his arms. “He’s a... very attentive lover, actually.”
“Peter!” she screeched, clasping her hand over her mouth again, amusement lighting her eyes.
“Serves you right for teasing me like this.” He grinned and went for the kill shot. “Well, it’s in your head, now.”
And Claire lost it, pretty much laughing until they decided that they were ready to go home.
When they reappeared in the kitchen, Claire suddenly hesitated. “You think he’s going to be angry?”
Peter put an arm around her shoulder and kissed the top of her head. “No, he won’t.”
As it turned out, that fear was unnecessary, anyway, since Gabriel was nowhere to be found.
“Gabriel?” Claire asked, and peeked into the open bathroom. She turned towards Peter. “Where is he?”
Peter shrugged. “Probably needed some air, too.”
The hateful words Claire had yelled at Gabriel earlier now came crashing down on her, the cheerful mood vanishing. She had screamed again and again, how he would always be Sylar and could be nothing else, ever. She shivered.
“Can you find him?” she whispered.
Peter nodded. “I can, but I’m sure he’s okay, Claire.”
Claire felt an unnamed panic grow inside of her. She remembered what he had told her two months ago, how he would kill himself before letting Sylar emerge, again. What if he had taken her words to heart? What if she had made him give up? What if...? Peter’s hands on his shoulders startled her.
“Claire. He’s fine.” Through the physical contact he could now clearly feel the emotions coursing through her. “He’s not going to kill himself because you were angry with him.”
“Can we please go looking for him,” Claire burst out, anyway.
Peter nodded, kept his hand on her shoulder and they disappeared again...
... to reappear on a cemetery.
A little farther back, they could make out Gabriel’s form sitting on the ground in front of...
Claire blinked. “What is he doing here?”
Peter looked at his friend for a long time. “Having a one-sided conversation with Nathan, it looks like.”
Claire sniffed, once and then ran off towards Gabriel.
Gabriel hadn’t noticed them until he could feel the whirlwind of emotions Claire was bringing with her. He stood, blinking at both her and Peter who was following her at a slower pace.
Claire all but jumped him and slung her arms around his neck.”Don’t do that!” she said, heatedly, angrily, fighting down tears. She pushed him back and hit his chest. “You don’t just disappear to God knows where after a fight! Everyone knows that!” She deflected her own guilt of having been the one responsible for the fight in the first place, and she knew it damn well.
Gabriel got the message loud and clear, anyway, and smiled, surprised (and just the slightest bit amused at her antics). He pulled her back into a hug. “I promised you I would never leave you behind, and I have every intention of keeping that promise.”
Peter trotted closer, smiling. “Yeah. What were you thinking, just disappearing after a fight?” he mock-accused.
Gabriel grinned. “Sorry.”
Claire shook her head against his chest. “No. I’m sorry. I had no right...”
Gabriel immediately interrupted her. “You have every right, Claire.” He held her at arms’ length, but kept his hands on her shoulders. “You don’t have to apologise to me.”
Claire glowered at him. “Okay. This stops, now,” she said, firmly.
Gabriel blinked at her, puzzled.
“How are we ever going to get over what happened if you won’t let me?” She wondered for a short moment why she hadn’t thought of that before, but came to the conclusion that she had probably wanted to play along with his guilt trip, so she didn’t have to deal with what would come after the guilt.
“I can’t do anything nice for you; you’re always going on and on about how you owe me and all that. I can’t even apologise because apparently you think that you having been an asshole excuses me behaving like one. Well, it doesn’t!”
“Claire, that’s not...”
“Yes, it is.” She waved him off, vaguely. “Whatever you were going to say.” She smiled a bit, aware of the fact that she actually had no idea what he was going to say, only that he would have fought her on this. “How are we supposed to have a normal rapport, when you insist on keeping it one-sided?”
Gabriel had been so in his own little world for the past two hours or so – with only Nathan’s tombstone for company – that he was having troubles finding the right words, now.
Peter considered that. “You know,” he said to Gabriel, “she has a point.”
“I just...” Gabriel knew that it was right, but... “I just want to make it up to you, set things right.”
“You are,” Claire answered promptly. “Let me accept it.” Her talk with Peter from earlier and her argument with Gabriel from before started to mingle, leaving only the loving image of the Gabriel Peter had always had being yelled at by her because of something he didn’t do. She was close to crying again, she could feel it. “I am done with this!” she declared. “I already knew that I wanted to forgive you, wanted to keep you around, ever since you fed me pasta and ice cream.” Her jaw set, and her hands made a firm and final gesture. “It’s time I start acting like it, too.”
Gabriel couldn’t let that stand. “You have been,” he said, softly. “That you’ve given me a chance at all is more than I could ever have hoped for.”
“Maybe partially,” she conceded. “But I kept waiting for... I don’t know, you or me making a mistake, as if it wasn’t even possible for both of us to succeed.” She took a deep breath. “Well, I want it to, and it will.” She looked up at him. “And I’m sorry that I yelled at you earlier. I had no right.”
Gabriel realised just how right Claire had been with her assessment, as his initial reaction would have been to tell her again that she did have every right. “Apology accepted,” he finally said, holding her earnest gaze.
Claire smiled at him, widely, finally able to breathe again for what felt like the first time in years.
Peter smiled at both of them. “So, uh... did you find what you were looking for?” he asked Gabriel, tilting his head towards the headstone.
“Yeah, we...” Gabriel chuckled, looking at the carved stone as well. “We came to an agreement.”
Peter knew, deep down, that had Nathan been alive, he would have found a common ground with Gabriel. Gabriel hadn’t been the only one who had killed Nathan, Peter was well aware that he himself had been another. Not to forget the anonymous person who had shot Nathan while his mind had been in Gabriel’s body.
And Gabriel was now in a position to do everything Nathan had wanted to realise but was unable to; was there for two of the people who had been the most important to Nathan, would do anything to protect them. Hell, Peter knew that Gabriel had even secretly made sure that Nathan’s two boys and his ex-wife were well taken care of, kept an eye on them while taking them all off the official radar, even though one of the boys would probably manifest sooner rather than later, and Gabriel was their invisible guardian.
“You would have,” Peter said after studying Gabriel’s relaxed and content expression for a long time. “And... there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you...” he added, haltingly. His eyes flickered from Claire to Gabriel a few times, and he fidgeted. “Now, don’t take this the wrong way, please, I just want to make sure the message sticks.”
Claire raised a dubious eyebrow, and Gabriel’s expression was one of curious amusement.
Peter took a deep breath, framed Gabriel’s face with both hands and pressed a firm kiss on his lips, before looking into his eyes. “I forgive you,” he whispered.
Gabriel smiled. “I know. You didn’t have to tell me.”
“Yes, I did. I should have long ago.” He sighed and stepped back. Well. This felt better.
Claire watched both of them, seeing the connection between them, the love, the trust... She couldn’t help but smile as well.
Suddenly, something occurred to Gabriel, and he sent a knowing smirk to Claire. “So, uh. I guess he told you then? About the...uh...” He was pretty sure that Peter wouldn’t have kissed him, otherwise. He cleared his throat.
“Oh, not again!” Peter complained.
The laughter bubbled out of Claire, and she couldn’t have stopped it had she wanted to.
Gabriel snorted and leaned closer to Claire, conspiratorially. “Did he blush?”
Claire pulled a face in mock-contemplation, then nodded.
“Arrgh! I hate you both!” Peter declared, pointing at both of them in turn.
Gabriel just laughed and pulled Peter into a tight hug. “Love you too.”
“You are awful, awful people,” Peter continued, but pulled a laughing Claire into the hug, too. “I don’t know why I put up with you guys, seriously.”
Unseen over both of the others’ heads, Gabriel looked at the tombstone, smiling widely. ‘I will be there for them, I promise. Always.’
After a moment, Claire’s voice piped up. “Can we just... go home and have pasta and ice cream?” she asked.
Gabriel’s smile widened, if that was at all possible, until his eyes blurred. Pasta and ice cream. Two sure signs of a new beginning.
“Yeah, get us home, stud,” Peter said, making Gabriel splutter.
“You are such an idiot, Petrelli!” he said, smacking Peter’s arm, still grinning.
Within the next blink of an eye, they were gone.
Hours later found the three of them on their couch in their sleep-wear, Peter and Gabriel talking quietly, Claire between them and asleep with her head on Gabriel’s shoulder.
The evening had turned out to be relaxing and companionable, and Peter sighed contently. “Well, that is one day that ended better than it began...”
Gabriel huffed. “Yeah. It could really only go uphill, I guess.”
“That much uphill?” Peter asked, smirking pointedly at Claire’s head.
Gabriel squinted at the blond head too. “No. That was... unexpected.” He ran a lazy finger through some of her strands.
Peter stretched. “Okay. Get your asses out of my bed and into yours. I’m beat.” Since he was too tired to get out the folding bed they had stowed away in a closet, he felt well within his right to claim the couch. They only needed the second bed half the time, anyway, and Claire currently didn’t look like she wanted a bed to herself, snuggling Gabriel’s side as she was. Peter had a feeling that the three of them taking up the smallest possible living space even in a small apartment such as this one wouldn’t change much after the impending move. Though the possibility of having more room alone was a nice prospect.
“And make sure you sleep in, since we can, for a change,” he added.
Gabriel nodded, easily picked Claire up and stood. “Night, Peter.”
“Night...” Peter did a little wave with his hand.
Peter was going to tell Gabriel that he didn’t have to thank him for anything, but in the newly found spirit of accepting thank yous, he just said, “You’re very welcome.”
Gabriel smiled, went to put Claire into bed and got in on the other side while waving the curtains close with a flick of his hand. He was going to put an arm around her as he often did, when she turned towards him, shifted closer and sighed in her sleep.
Gabriel blinked for a moment, then accepted her unconscious offer of trust with a smile and held her close. After a moment, he gave into temptation and kissed the top of her head, whispering, “Good night, Claire.”
When Claire woke up some hours later, in the middle of the night, she wasn’t sure what had woken her, but her heart was beating fast. She was pretty sure that she hadn't had a nightmare, it must have been something... else.
The next thing she realised was that she – unlike she usually did – was lying on her back, though slightly turned towards Gabriel who was sleeping peacefully next to her, his arm holding her securely.
She studied his sleep-softened features, undisturbed. She very rarely saw him this relaxed; though he was generally calm, there was mostly some kind of an edge to him. Not now.
Her heart beat a little faster again, but she didn’t notice, every fibre of her being lulled in contentment. Her hand unconsciously went to his arm, barely resisting the urge to run fingers over it.
She didn’t startle, wasn’t even surprised, when his eyes opened. She just smiled a smile he returned.
“Hey,” he said, quietly.
She shook her head. Not her most articulate moment, but it felt so good, just being, being together, not being alone.
“Good.” His fingers didn’t show the restraint hers had and slowly moved up and down her side a bit, spreading a warmth through her stomach that had nothing to do with his body heat.
Peter had been right. It was in her head now. The kiss she had seen, even though it hadn’t been in any way sexual, made her wonder what the curve of Gabriel’s lips would taste like. Peter calling Gabriel an ‘attentive lover’ made her so much more conscious of the warm hand on her waist.
Her own letting go of demons she hadn’t ever been aware she could just let go through mere words that made it real in her mind, allowed her to breathe in the situation, feel her heartbeat that was increasing both in pace and strength (or so it felt like, when with every breath she took, her pulse was beating in her throat, intensifying every sensation coursing through her).
And it... didn’t feel threatening. She was still wrapped in warmth and comfort and his hand and his soft smile that was slowly making way for amazed realisation.
It was that one moment, the one moment right before, when you feel like you can see and hear and feel everything from everywhere at the same time. When you can see the whole world in the eyes so close to yours; when you can hear every living being breathe through the deep breaths you both have to take to take it all in; when you feel the blood pulse under your fingertips and the muscles jump when you move your hand, mirroring emotions running so high they might burst...
... and then it is no longer the moment before, but the moment, and you can taste eternity.
Gabriel gave a soft mewling, sobbing sound when their lips met, physically trembling when it became undeniable that this was really happening. He hadn’t thought it would ever truly be a possibility, hadn’t thought she would ever believe that he deserved... He wrapped both his arms around her, pulling her unbelievably close, moved his lips over hers, fervently taking in her forgiveness.
Claire whimpered at his secure hold, slung one arm around him and the other hand into his hair that was as soft as it looked, and then finally dared to run her tongue over his lips, encouraging him to open up for her.
Not that he needed much encouraging; he deepened the kiss, taking everything she was willing to give, trying to show her just how much he wanted this, her, always. He couldn’t say her name, so he tried to spell it out with his kiss, making her feel that she was all that mattered in that moment. His trembling burned away in the fiery want that gave him back the control over his body to enjoy every touch, sound, kiss. God, the kiss.
Claire wasn’t even sure anymore what exactly she wanted, just that it was more. More kisses, more touches, more of his body against hers. So she moved one of her legs over his to hold him as much as she could, the arms no longer being enough. She gasped into the kiss when she could feel that Gabriel was not only thankful that she would be with him, but he wanted her as much as she wanted him.
Gabriel noticed the same, having been so caught up in the moment, that he had been unaware of his body’s reaction up until that point. He broke the kiss, stilled his movements against her, panting. He still smiled against her lips. “Sorry,” he gasped out. That had maybe been a little too heated, a little too fast.
It took Claire a moment to understand what he was saying and why the hell he would say it... then she sent him a heated look, rolled him onto his back before he could react and straddled him, making him moan. She leaned close and whispered on his lips, smiling mischievously: “What was that?”
He breathed heavily, looking at her in surprise, but not at all averse to her initiative. He returned the smile and pulled her back into a deep kiss, allowing himself to take in the feeling the friction of her body on his created.
For the longest time, they did nothing but hold the other close, kiss and move against each other, moaning softly. Just as the moans were growing less soft and more desperate, Claire moved her hands lower and under Gabriel’s shirt.
Gabriel broke the kiss again, her soft fingers still discovering his skin and the jumping muscles of his stomach. “Claire...”
Her eyes were so dark, the green was hardly visible anymore, and they looked at him with so much emotion and want, it was really hard for him to remember what he was going to say.
His fear of destroying the precarious balance he’d had with Claire up until just then eventually won out; he ran a finger over her cheek and looked at her tenderly. “I don’t want you to regret this in the morning,” he whispered.
She captured his hand with hers and kissed his palm, slowly shaking her head. “Gabriel, no.” She bent to kiss his lips. “After all we’ve been through, you think all it would take is a little darkness for me to jump you?”
He smiled benignly, his eyes closing for a moment. When he opened them again, he leaned up, teasingly licking her lips. “Just making sure...” he said, even though his fears hadn’t completely disappeared. Her hands moved higher under his shirt, making his eyes fall close and him pull her into another kiss. “You have no idea how much I want this,” he said against her lips, then deepening the contact, passionately.
They broke the kiss once Claire had pushed his shirt up to his neck, and he fought his way out of it, throwing it on the floor. Claire only spent a short moment to admire his upper body, before deciding that she would not wait until he felt secure enough to do the same to her and took off her own shirt.
She smiled sweetly when she noticed how he actually waited for several breaths until he so much as lowered his eyes to her chest, and then reaching out his hands, running both his palms from her stomach up to cup her breasts, reverently.
She took a shuddering breath, enjoying the sensation for as long as she could, before she needed to feel his body against hers and his lips on hers, again. Both moaned when they came together, unable to suppress it.
Gabriel smiled into the kiss. “Shh,” he made, running a finger over her lips, reminding her of the thin glass wall separating them from a sleeping Peter.
She giggled, showering his lips in a number of small kisses that were bubbling out of her like silent laughter.
Her evident happiness reached him clearly, liberated him, gave him the confidence to roam his hands over her back and lower, pulling her close, before flipping them both around and settling on top of her, his mouth finding hers. Another twin moan escaped them, being captured and quietened a little by the kiss.
Despite his initiative, it was Claire again who took it another step further, starting to pull at the hem of his shorts.
Gabriel stopped his movements and lifted his head to look into her eyes. “Are you sure?” he had to ask again.
Claire whimpered at the loss of contact. “Don’t make me beg,” she whispered.
Gabriel pressed his eyes closed for a second. “I won’t. Just, please, Claire. Please, say it. I need to hear you say it.”
Claire framed his face with her hands, brushing a strand of his dark hair out of his face. How could this powerful man be so afraid? “I want you,” she said, softly but firmly.
He memorised the expression on her face as she said this, before he leaned in to all but lick his way into her mouth, finding her eagerly participating.
Without breaking the kiss, he reached down to take care of his shorts, Claire helpfully lending an uncoordinated hand or two, then doing the same with her pyjama bottoms. Telekinesis might have been brought to use, but not even Gabriel could have said for sure, the ability being familiar to him like a third hand.
The first contact of the full length of their naked bodies made both of them gasp and freeze for the briefest of moment, before Claire instinctively opened her legs to accommodate him between them.
They much more panted against each other’s mouths now than kissed, even though their tongues brushed over lips and each other, whenever their undulating bodies brought them closer and not apart.
Gabriel could feel her wetness and in response moved his hips so that he could move against her, though without entering her, the contact sending electrical surges through their bodies as it was.
Claire slung her arms around his neck and moved her hips upwards, wanting more. So much more.
Gabriel shuddered and sat firmly on the urge to ask her once again if she was really, really sure she wanted this. “There’s... I think... hold on,” he forced out, breaking the kiss to clear his head and look sideways. The bedside table drawer opened at his mind’s command, and a packet jumped into his hand. And, yes, sure enough, he had remembered correctly that there had been a still wrapped packet of condoms in there.
He smiled ruefully. “I’m not going to ask again...” he couldn’t help saying, anyway.
Claire laughed, breathlessly. “Are you kidding? Just get the damn thing open, already,” she ordered, distracting him with a deep kiss that kind of slowed his compliance to her demand.
He did manage eventually to both open the box and a single condom, though putting it on was another logistical enterprise of its own.
Once he was ready, his hands gently discovered her body, his mouth kissing random patterns over her neck and breasts, all of the previous rush forced down. Each of the touches of his lips and fingers told him stories about her body, no cell remembering an occurrence such as this one, but memorising his touch as the first. He had known before that Claire had never let anyone as close as him, but actually feeling it was so much more potent.
His hands wandered lower, gently parting her legs more so that there was enough room for his hand to pleasure her further, preparing her, taking her mind off anything that wasn’t heat and want and pleasure.
She whimpered and gasped and held him close, unable to do anything else anymore. Though she was still unable to feel pain, this was a fire that could nonetheless consume her, spreading out as his fingers caressed and breached her. “Please, please, please, Gabriel,” she babbled, mindlessly.
He moved up to kiss her, his hand leaving her folds to steady himself. “Shh, I’m here, love.” And without another word, but a deep kiss instead, he entered her.
This probably wouldn’t last long, Gabriel sadly acknowledged, not with him having wanted this for so long, Claire being overwhelmed by new sensations, and both of them flying high on all kinds of emotions from the day before. He tried to keep his thrusts steadily slow for as long as he could, swallowing her gasps and moans, while fighting down the growing urge to tell her just how much he loved her.
“So beautiful,” he murmured instead. “So, so...” he sobbed into the kiss, unable to continue talking.
Claire for her part was, as he had expected, drowning in the feelings crashing over her. She slung her legs around his hips and her arms tighter around his neck, wanting to pull him in, closer, so much closer than was humanly possible.”You feel so good,” she gasped, throwing back her head when he changed his angle, going deeper and faster. “Gabriel!”
Hearing his name in her lust filled voice made his hips jostle. He reached a trembling hand between them, his thumb finding her slick clitoris.
Claire’s back arched off the bed and she all but squealed; probably, possibly, maybe waking Peter, but it didn’t matter anymore, nothing mattered, only Gabriel did, and what Gabriel did and how much Gabriel did and... and then she was lost, filled, held, caressed, pleasured, loved...
Gabriel watched her lose it and couldn’t hold back any longer. He removed his hand from between them and just held himself up with both arms, thrusting with abandon, following her and finally reaching her.
He collapsed on her, careful not to squash her completely, and after a moment, when they both looked into the other’s sweaty face, they laughed in unison, breathlessly. He hid his face in the crook of her neck.
She just kept holding him close and kissed his neck. “Do you think we woke Peter?” she couldn’t help asking after a minute.
Gabriel concentrated for a second. “Shockingly, he’s out like a light.” He chuckled, then pulled a face as he felt himself slipping out of her. “Sorry,” he mumbled, rolling off her, making sure he got to the condom so he could flick it into the trash.
She easily returned to his arms, both of them lying on their sides, facing each other, enjoying every minute of being held and kissed in the afterglow. Suddenly, she snickered into the kiss. “He was right. You are an attentive lover.”
Gabriel stared at her and then laughed. “He did so not say that.”
“He totally did,” she said, gravely, before laughing and kissing Gabriel again. “Why? Didn’t you treat my uncle right?”
Gabriel, amused and incredulous and horrified, shook his head. “Shut up,” he said, kissing her, but unable to contain his grin. “Just,” kiss, “I’m so serious,” kiss, “don’t ever mention him in bed again.”
Claire laughed and kissed and then laughed and kissed again, and she was sure she would never tire of being with Gabriel like this, ever.
They woke to a loud crash and yells, Gabriel instinctively pulling Claire closer, trying to protect her even while still half asleep.
“For fuck’s sake, Noah!” Peter yelled.
Through the open glass door and the gap in the curtain, they could not see anything out of the ordinary at first, but then Peter walked into view, one hand outstretched, the other stowing away a gun in his pants.
Gabriel sighed, weary, as the realisation set in.
“Oh, great,” mumbled Claire.
Peter continued. “You knew that they were sharing a bed, sometimes...” He turned to look into the room. “Oh.”
Yes. Oh. The two inside were just about covered enough that the lower halves of their bodies were not visible, the upper halves were very obviously naked, Claire still resting against Gabriel’s chest.
Peter had the audacity to smirk. “Well, that was sooner than I expected.”
Despite the situation and despite himself, Gabriel had to bite his lip to not laugh at that. Peter was just so... Peter.
“Sorry about the rough awakening, since we were supposed to have the day off,” he directed the last part at where Gabriel and Claire presumed Peter was telekinetically holding Noah, “but could you get dressed?” He nodded towards the other side of the room. “I’ll keep that one busy in the meantime.” He closed the door. “If I let you go, will you calm the fuck down?” they could still hear through the glass.
For a moment, neither Claire nor Gabriel moved, both still taking in the situation, then Gabriel pushed himself up and sat against the headboard.
“So, uh...” he began, apparently feeling the insecurity he had ignored that night before, again. “How do things look in the light of the morning?”
Claire turned around from where she was lying on the side to look at him, not bothering with covering her chest, even though it did send an odd tingle through her since it was bright now, and she was not being distracted by all kinds of touches. She demonstratively gave him a once-over. “Extraordinarily attractive.”
Gabriel really hoped he wasn’t blushing, but the smile he couldn’t hide.
Claire snickered. “Bashful is a good look on you...” she noted, sitting up next to him, wrapping a hand around his neck and pulling him into a slow kiss.
No, he would not let that stand. He ended the kiss with a parting lick to her lips. “Minx is a good look on you.” He smirked.
She had to laugh out loud. Now, she was blushing.
Following the laugh, they heard some crashing sound from the other room. “Stop it!” Peter hissed, his voice sharp.
Both Gabriel and Claire sighed, again, but he kept an arm around her, his warm hand lying securely on her hip.
She looked up at him. “Do you think we can get away with a shower?”
“I’m sure Peter can handle Noah for that long…” He tried to smile reassuringly.
Claire hesitated for only a second or two before she got up, firmly squashing her modesty. After all, he followed her, and they did have sex the night before.
He stood close behind her and pulled her to him, his arms around her. He closed his eyes and murmured into her hair. “Don’t worry. We’ll handle this.”
She leaned back against him. “Yeah… it’s just.” She breathed out, heavily. “I kind of wanted to keep this to ourselves for a bit. You know. So that it’s just ours?” She added the last part to make sure he understood that she wasn’t ashamed or something equally silly.
He held her tighter still, not saying anything, just feeling her closeness.
“Gabriel…?” she said, quietly, waiting for his soft “Hm?” that followed it almost immediately and continued, “Last night… did I dream that you told me you love me?”
His eyes opened slowly. “You didn’t dream.”
Claire smiled. “Good.” She turned in his arms and saw his happy smile at her answer. Her smile turned mischievous and she reached for the condoms still lying on the bedside table, taking one into her hand. “Get us to the bathroom?”
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “Noah is going to have a conniption.”
“Not if time only passes for us…”
A slow grin grew on Gabriel’s face, and he teleported both of them to the bathroom, Noah be damned.
There, he turned on the shower, took Claire’s hand and… then the sound of the falling water was gone, and the world around them stopped.
Claire looked around.
“Just to make sure I notice should my… hold slip,” he said, smiling benignly.
Claire snickered. “Do you expect to lose your concentration any time, soon?” she asked innocently and slung her arms around his neck.
Gabriel didn’t think that her comment required an answer, so he just bent to kiss her deeply.
Compared to the past night, their encounter quickened the pace a lot sooner and grew a lot more heated, both having already learned a bit about each other’s bodies, neither feeling quite as insecure as before, now that they knew that their advances would be returned. The fact that only a door away, Noah Bennet was currently frozen in time, waiting to burst the bubble they had so carefully built just for the two of them added a certain amount of desperation on top of that.
Before long, Claire lifted herself up – Gabriel helpfully aiding her in that endeavour – and slung her legs around his torso, still kissing him deeply, wildly, both moaning, since there was no need to keep quiet this time.
And when Gabriel walked both of them towards some small commode next to the sink, almost crashing into it, placing her on it and throwing some bottles off it that were then held in mid-air in the process, and situating himself between her legs, Claire pretty much immediately unwrapped the condom, not seeing a reason to wait any longer.
Gabriel took it from her, put it on and only gasped out a short “Okay?” to which she nodded, frantically, before sliding into her, their loud moans echoing off the cold tiles.
Claire mindlessly pulled at Gabriel, trying to get him closer and to go faster and deeper, encouraging him with repeated, “Yes, yes, yes, more, Gabriel, deeper, please,” or just incoherent words that could have meant something but probably didn’t.
Gabriel couldn’t have denied her had he wanted to, and before long, he was all but slamming into her, the commode banging rhythmically against the wall. He silenced her babbles with a deep kiss, her still audible whimpers and moans as meaningful as the words…
And then he reached out with his empathy, let her feel everything he was feeling, soaked up everything she was feeling, let it amplify his own emotions and projected the sum back to her, until neither could tell where one mind ended and the other began, both feeling everything, for that glorious moment literally being one. One dizzy, lustful, loving mind.
When Gabriel came to, his chest heaving against Claire’s, both feeling as if they hadn’t breathed in centuries… he noticed that the water was running. He turned his face to the side and chuckled breathlessly once he saw that, yes, he apparently had lost concentration.
Claire followed his line of sight and laughed a little with him. “How long do you think has it been?”
Gabriel swallowed and shook his head. “Not that long, or we’d hear someone out there run rampage, again…”
Claire laughed, a little more steadily this time, and pulled Gabriel into a soft, slow kiss. She briefly thought about telling him just how amazing and insane and just plain fucking hot that had been… but then again, he had felt all of her emotions exploding inside her, and her words couldn’t have been able to capture what she had been feeling, anyway.
She settled for another kiss.
Gabriel understood and smiled against her lips. Then he pulled out of her, disposed of the condom, and they went to have their shower.
Noah was still staring at the table top, having refused to talk if he wasn’t allowed to yell, having refused coffee or breakfast or any other pleasantry Peter came up with.
The shower had stopped a while ago, and they had seen the bedroom’s curtain move softly, presumably because the other two were moving around behind it.
When finally the pair emerged from the room, Claire stepped out first, Gabriel right behind her with a soft hand on the small of her back.
“So what’s the emergency?” Claire asked without preamble.
Noah was visibly seething and metaphorically pressing down the lid on the pot that threatened to be blown off. He lifted his head and stared at Gabriel, saying in a soft voice laced with ice, “I was here for him, actually.” It wasn’t clear form the tone of his voice whether he’d rather change his mind about telling Gabriel what he came to tell him, or whether he was gleefully preparing the words already.
Claire noticed that distinction and that Noah wasn’t making it on purpose. She also felt the hand on her back tense. “Stop it, dad,” she hissed. “Say what you were going to say or leave, but stop playing around.”
She smiled when she felt a thumb rub her back in small circles and turned to smile at Gabriel. “Coffee?”
Gabriel just nodded, appearing much calmer than he was. He remembered too well how it had never taken Noah much more than a few choice words to have the world come crashing down over him.
He sat, letting Peter’s unwavering trust warm and secure him.
Claire turned on the machine and moved to stand in the doorway, obviously not trusting the situation not to escalate.
“Do you know a Luke Campbell?” Noah asked, finally.
Gabriel blinked. Of all the things he expected, that was not one of them. “Yes. I’ve been trying to locate him.”
“Not looking hard enough to consult Molly...” Noah tilted his head.
“I didn’t classify him as dangerous, but thought he could still use some help. He is a bit of a troubled teenager. Why? What did he do?”
Noah straightened in his seat, letting the Company man take over. He’d have time for dealing with... other things later. “He came into the New York office, threatening everyone, making sure they knew he wasn’t afraid of them, because, quote, ‘if Sylar didn’t scare me, you won’t, either,’ unquote.”
Gabriel blinked. He really hoped he hadn’t been wrong in his assessment of the boy. “Did he actually hurt anyone?”
Noah shook his head. “No. But we didn’t really know what to do with him, since he kept saying that he would. So we locked him up on Level 5, even though that isn’t really ready to restrict prisoners really effectively, and called and brought in his mother, whom he refuses to see even though she’s frantic and driving every agent in the vicinity to madness.”
Gabriel bit his lip to keep from laughing, grateful that he got a coffee placed in front of him to distract him and smiled at Claire who sat next to him with her own cup.
“Yeah... the family is a bit... dysfunctional.”
Noah leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms, unsettlingly appearing as if he had another ace hidden away somewhere. “How exactly do you know this kid?”
Gabriel blinked. “He knew where to find my father and insisted I take him along for the ride.”
Noah had the hint of a smile on his face. “Why does some random kid from God knows where know how to find your father?”
Gabriel, puzzled, answered. “My father lived in the same street and apparently told Luke where he was headed. I’m not sure, actually. Luke didn’t know either.”
“He claims he’s a killer...” Noah added. “Hardly what I’d call ‘not dangerous’.”
“That was different,” Gabriel immediately contradicted. “I mean, yeah, I threatened him and his mother and agent... Simmons, I think it was, but I was still the first Special he’d met and who listened to him. When Simmons tried to shoot me, Luke killed him in a knee-jerk reaction. It was defence, and he’s not a killer.” He huffed. “Never mind that the good agent would have packed Luke in a heartbeat had he known about his ability.”
“Still quite uncharacteristic to protect a possible threat.” Noah made it sound almost like a question.
Gabriel didn’t know where Noah was heading with this, and he didn’t quite dare to just read his mind and end the game. “I guess he was lost and I was his way out.”
“And you didn’t kill him...” Noah added.
“No, I didn’t, obviously.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “I even saved him from Danko’s men at some point.”
Noah laughed coldly. “So let me get this straight. You not only let some random kid live, but save him. A kid who unreasonably saves your life even though you threaten him and his mother. A kid who just happens to have lived in your father’s street and then knows where the old man moved, because, I’m sure, Samson Gray was just the kind of social butterfly who would tell that kind of thing to just anyone.”
Gabriel blinked. All the thoughts he’d had back then came back to him. Thoughts about coincidence in a small world... thoughts about how he – in retrospect – never actually intended to kill the boy.
‘Maybe I reminded him of you.’ Yeah, maybe.
Noah smirked and slid a folder holding Luke’s records over the table to Gabriel.
Gabriel opened it.
“We tested him, once he was in, of course, and, well...”
Gabriel’s face lost all colour.
“Gabriel?” Claire asked, almost afraid to.
Gabriel wordlessly pushed the file to her, and she gasped once she got to the information her father had apparently been talking about.
Peter worriedly looked at Gabriel, not asking just then.
Gabriel sighed. “Samson Gray was his father.”
Peter blinked, his worries suddenly gone. “You have a brother?”
“Half,” Gabriel said, as if that would make a difference.
Peter groaned loudly and leaned back in his seat. “I worried myself sick over this? For fuck’s sake, Noah!”
Noah kept calculating eyes on Gabriel. “I thought you might appreciate the heads-up.”
Gabriel briefly considered the other possible reasons Noah could have had to come here personally in the morning just to deliver that piece of news himself. Possibly watch his reaction, and maybe get his assessment on Luke before he knew he was his brother. There might have been other reasons.
The fact remained that... “I do, thank you.”
Claire carefully reached for his hand, enlacing their fingers. Not to spite her father or rile him up (on the contrary, she had to almost force herself to do what she wanted in that moment)... but merely because Gabriel seemed to need it.
“So, what’s he like?”
Gabriel grinned and then chuckled, his mind miles away. “He’s a brat. The trouble making kind.”
“Well,” Peter began, exuberantly, “he definitely got that from his mom.”
Gabriel smirked. “Oh, his mom’s got bite.” The smirk vanished. “That he doesn’t want to talk to her would suggest that he’s either afraid or ashamed.” He thought about that for a long moment. “I need to talk to him.”
“I would have asked you to do that anyway, brother or not,” Noah declared. “Since he’s such a big fan of yours.”
Gabriel rubbed his face with the one hand that wasn’t held by Claire. “He certainly knows how to get attention,” he mumbled, but already plotted ways to get through to a troubled and superpowered teenager.
Claire smirked. “Brat.”
Gabriel’s lip twitched at that, and he tilted his head to smile at her.
When Gabriel arrived at the newly instigated Level 5 with Claire and Noah – Peter having been called by Angela who had apparently thought that since they weren’t having their day off, anyway, he might as well be useful – they found Luke Campbell in his cell, sitting on his bed, unmoving.
“He can’t see us,” Gabriel noticed.
“No,” Noah confirmed, “mirror glass. But we can clear it if we want to.”
Gabriel took a deep breath, turning to look at Claire’s worried glance and managed a smile. He had been thinking about how to handle this, and he wasn’t sure if Claire would like the idea he had come up with... “Allow me,” he said, and then his features slowly morphed into Claire’s.
Claire blinked. “You think that will help?”
The other Claire just grinned at her and went to enter the cell, file in hand. She pretty much burst into the room. “Mister Campbell. Good morning,” she said, pulling up a chair so she could talk to him better.
Luke startled, but quickly adopted an annoyed expression. “Figures. All I have to do is mention Sylar, and they send the crown princess herself.”
“Isn’t that what you wanted?” she challenged him. “For the higher ups to notice you?”
Luke half-shrugged. “Don’t care.”
“You made an awful fuss for someone who doesn’t care.”
Luke glowered at her, angrily. “I should be locked away, and now I’m locked away.”
“Hmm,” she hummed. “And why is that?”
“I might not be as dangerous as Sylar, but I did kill a guy.”
The person looking like Claire pretended to study her file. “Ah, yes. You microwaved an agent.”
Claire looked up, directly at him. “Microwaved him to protect someone,” she added. “Is that correct?”
“Did my mother tell you that?” Luke demanded, coldly.
Claire didn’t react. “Answer the question, Luke.”
Luke laughed, bitterly. “Of course she did. Who else would. Yeah, actually,” he said. “I killed a person to protect a serial killer.”
“Serial killers kill for psychological gratification and have a cooling off period,” Claire said in a boring tone, pretty sure that the Claire outside of the glass was rolling her eyes. “Sylar killed for powers, which might be followed by psychological gratification but does not necessarily have anything to do with killing. And as far as I know, there were no cooling off periods as long as there were people with abilities within his reach.” Again she looked directly at Luke. “Interesting that you would make an exception.”
Luke averted his eyes, uncomfortable. “He needed me to find his dad.”
“And yet he showed up at his father’s doorstep alone, and you’re very much alive.”
Luke clasped his hands in his lap, not responding.
“Luke, the man you killed was an agent who was ordered to bring in or kill people with abilities, and I can assure you, they did not care whether or not those people were adults.” She did another alibi scan of the file. “Micah Sanders, for example, was younger than you and would have been shot on sight, had he not managed to trick the agents.”
Luke swallowed. “Yeah, well, I didn’t know that, did I?”
“I know that you are aware what those agents were capable of,” she continued, regardless. “Sylar saved you from them, didn’t he?” Luke didn’t answer. “He also saved Micah Sanders.”
“So what? He also saved you, I know! He told me that!” Luke burst out. “Doesn’t mean I want to become a killer, too!”
“You’re not a killer, Luke,” she said calmly. “The first person you ever met who understood what was wrong with you, the only one with answers, was threatened, and you reacted without thinking.” She paused. “People do a lot of things for answers.”
“Easy for you to say, Claire Bennet,” he all but hissed the name. “You didn’t kill, you just had the psycho killer in your head, and now you’re the golden girl of the ‘new world’...” He huffed.
Claire’s expression changed. “I’m not my girlfriend,” she said, hoping that the real Claire outside would forgive the usage of the term.
Luke looked up.
“Tell me, Luke,” Claire began, deceptively calmly, “what happens when you forget the crap that happened to you when you were a kid?”
Luke felt a cold air of dread wash over him, but he kept his eyes firmly on her. “It eats away at your soul,” he recited, never having been able to forget the words.
“Well, well. I actually taught you something.” The voice broke and became lower and huskier mid-sentence, her eyes and hair darkened, her clothes blurred and changed, the whole figure growing taller.
Luke forced every bit and piece of a possible reaction down and only said, “New trick?”
Gabriel smirked. “A really cool one.”
“And you are too a serial killer,” Luke blurted out.
Gabriel burst out laughing. “Splitting hairs,” he insisted, grinning.
Luke grinned back, despite having expected to be afraid should he ever see Sylar again, he wasn’t. “So, what? You’re sneaking around in this company, playing people you’re not?”
Gabriel’s grin turned smug. “No. I usually walk around in plain sight as me... playing agent and consultant and...” he considered that, “pretty much everything that has to be done, right now, to be honest.”
“And you still had the time to find a girlfriend?” Luke added, suddenly remembering the off-handed remark from the girl Sylar had posed as, earlier. “One you, what? Stole a power from? And, man, I know how you do that...”
“Did,” Gabriel corrected. “I’m not doing that anymore.”
“Okay...” Luke blinked at him. “You’re the crown prince to the crown princess, now? Congrats and all...” he said, sarcastically.
Gabriel looked at the boy for a long time. Finally, he said what the whole dialogue had been about, without Luke probably realising. “You don’t belong in here,” he said calmly.
Pain flashed over Luke’s expression. “So, fine, whatever, you’re a good guy now, pretty girlfriend and everything, but I’m not you!”
“You killed a guy with a power you’d never used that way before, trying to protect someone. You’re right. You’re not like me, not even close.”
“And I don’t want to become that. I’m not...” he huffed, suppressing tears, “... not strong like you.”
Gabriel sighed. Time to haul out the big guns, then. He stood to give Luke his file. “You were tested when you were brought in. Including DNA.”
Luke looked at him, wide-eyed. “Yeah, so? Do I have some illness on top of everything else?”
Gabriel smiled. “No, but you might possibly not like what you find.”
Luke opened the file, only slowly lowering his eyes.
Gabriel could tell the exact moment, Luke found what he had wanted him to see. The boy shook his head, his throat making swallowing motions. “Luke...”
“No. He’s not,” Luke said, firmly. “Mom would have told me,” he insisted.
Gabriel held up a placating hand. “It’s entirely possible that she didn’t know. He had some kind of... mind control. Compulsion.”
Luke hopped off the bed, clutching his file. “You’re...?” he grasped for the one thing that would make this more bearable, even though it shouldn’t have.
“I’m your brother,” he confirmed, softly.
Luke turned away from him. “Are you saying he...” his voice broke, “... raped my mother?”
“I’m saying I don’t know.”
Angrily, his eyes watering, Luke faced Gabriel, again. “Did you kill him?”
Gabriel sighed. “No.”
“That’s one hell of a crap moment to grow a conscience!” Luke yelled.
Gabriel’s eyes flashed both in remembered fury as in sympathy for Luke’s own anger. “Luke, I didn’t have to kill him. When I found him, he was alone, pathetic, sick and suffocating slowly.” He raised an eyebrow. “Would you have killed him?”
Luke trembled. “Is he dead, now?”
Gabriel blinked. He actually didn’t know that. “I presume he would be...” He tilted his head. “Just a second,” he said, looking at the mirrored wall. “Could you clear the glass and open communication, please?” he asked his own reflection.
The glass cleared only moments later, revealing Noah standing near the controls and Claire... consoling a woman.
Gabriel’s eyes widened. “Oh, hell,” he murmured.
Had Gabriel not been focused entirely on Luke, he would have noticed the additional presence outside the cell, especially, since Mary Campbell was projecting shock, anger, pain and incomprehension quite clearly. She was shaking and crying, but not speaking and not daring to look through the glass, just then.
Gabriel ignored her for the time being and looked at Noah. “Is he dead?”
“He’s dead,” Noah replied, as expected having that little piece of information.
It made both Luke and his mother stare at Noah, demandingly.
“How sure are we?” Gabriel asked for clarification.
Noah smiled a cold smile. “When we got the news of his death, I went there with the Haitian, took a DNA sample and then watched the body burn personally.”
Gabriel raised his eyebrows in surprise and nodded crookedly, before looking at Luke. “That’s Noah speak for ‘you don’t get any deader than that’,” he explained.
Hot and angry tears were now escaping the boy’s eyes, and he threw his file at the wall. “Fuck this! He killed your mom and might as well have raped mine!” he burst out. “I’m, like, a predestined monster!”
Gabriel shook his head. “Look at you. Do you think a monster would react like that?”
“It doesn’t matter!” Luke stalked around the room, coming to a stand against a wall.
“I got out of it,” Gabriel added. “If I can, so can you.”
Luke let himself drop to the floor.
“You’re not alone with this. I won’t let you,” Gabriel said, warmly.
Luke looked up, rubbing his eyes, as if for the first time truly seeing the man in his cell. “You... really are different aren’t you?”
Gabriel smiled, ruefully. “I have good reasons to be. I guess now we should find some for you.”
Luke pulled up his knees. “I don’t... I don’t want to be... that.”
Gabriel nodded. “Okay,” he agreed. “So you won’t.”
Luke began to look vaguely as if he thought that Gabriel made sense.
“Since we know now what you don’t want to be, we only have to figure out what you do want to be.”
Luke had never even thought that far. His goal had been to get locked the hell away and never having to think about what he did or possibly would do in some bloody future.
Gabriel guiltily looked at Mary Campbell who was now apparently composed enough to not avert her eyes anymore. She kept them firmly on Luke who huddling on the floor.
He also remembered what he had accused her of when he’d last met her. Certainly, there was a ‘dysfunction in the Campbell household’, but it was nowhere near as bad as he had made Luke believe at the time. Mary did care for her son, she was also freaked out, but she cared.
Gabriel almost rolled his eyes at his past self that hadn’t been as convincing a liar as he would have liked to make himself believe. The spike of worry that had flooded her at the off-handed lie of Luke’s mentioning drugs had been real, and Sylar had immediately reassured her of that. Bad, bad liar. And when Mary had insisted that all she wanted was for Luke to be happy, Sylar hadn’t even claimed that she was lying, because she very obviously was not. The fact that Luke wasn’t happy was... well... kind of a ‘duh’ moment. Hello? Troubled, single-parent teenager with an inexplicable superpower? Of course he hadn’t been happy.
“I have some things to take care of. You should talk to your mother in the meantime. She’s worried.” Not much of a peace offering, he was well aware, but nothing ever was for him, anyway.
Briefly, he noticed in the corner of his eyes that Noah was walking off to the side.
Luke huffed, sounding broken. “My mother doesn’t want anything to do with her freaky son of an even freakier asshole.”
Unlike Luke, who wasn’t looking up, Gabriel could see Mary taking a few distressed steps closer to the glass. He smiled. “You might actually find that you’re wrong about that.”
With that, he turned around and opened the door. “I’m closing the connection that you can speak in private.” He left, not closing the door until Mary Campbell had rushed past him with a murderous look directed at him. Well, good. The fighting spirit was still there.
True to his word, he closed the connection, but left the window clear. “She didn’t know, did she?” he asked sheepishly.
Claire shook her head. “No. And we didn’t get to tell her, because she was freaking out over me turning into you...”
Gabriel pulled a face. “Oh, and sorry about the girlfriend thing. I should have...”
Claire smirked. “No, I get it. Showing him he can be normal, too.” The smirked toned down into a smile, and she walked closer to him, pulling him down with a soft hand around his neck and into a kiss. “And I might not like labels,” she murmured against his lips, “but I don’t mind that one too much.”
Gabriel smiled, framing her face and kissing her again.
“So what are you going to do with him?” she asked, once the kiss ended.
Gabriel sighed. “Well, since he came here threatening everyone, we can’t just let him go, and he does need help, so... I’m getting him settled in the clinic, and will have to ask Madeline to take over his case.” He looked at the two inside the cell. “He’s a smart kid, he just needs to realise that he has options. He never did have those before.”
Claire followed his line of sight.
The Campbells were obviously both angry, but interestingly enough not at each other.
Gabriel smirked at the emotions he managed to catch. “They’re in a ‘fuck the world, we’ll do this our way’ mood.”
Claire chuckled. “That one’s always helpful.”
“You would say that...”
She laughed again, leaning her forehead against his chest.
“Where did Noah disappear to, by the way?”
Claire sighed. “Apparently, there’s some impromptu meeting going on at the Petrelli mansion.”
Gabriel pushed her away so that he could look at her. “Oh?”
“Peter’s there already. Parkman and Suresh are there with some thing or other, and Micah finally managed to talk Tracy into taking over our PR department.”
“Okay... the Tracy thing is good, what about the other two?”
“Not sure. Peter didn’t sound happy, so I’m guessing they’re teaming up against you, again.” Claire rolled her eyes. “Even they should have realised by now that we can’t do this without you. And... well, my dad’s going to be there.” She didn’t have to elaborate on that, not after what had happened earlier that morning.
Gabriel sighed, weary. “Anything else?”
“Yeah...” Claire’s expression lightened a bit. “Angela said the new furniture was being delivered today, so we could actually just head over and then stay...”
Gabriel nodded. He had expected their move to happen soon enough, and the Petrelli mansion had always been the logical choice, especially, since Angela had decided that there had been enough bad memories in there to last her two lifetimes and had found herself some penthouse apartment or other.
In more ways than one, it showed that she was clearing the field for Peter, Claire and Gabriel.
Which, come to think of it, might have had something to do with why Mohinder and Matt were on another war path, now. Up until then, they had often voiced their displeasure, but had never actively sought out anyone about it. Gabriel hadn’t seen Matt since he had left his basement, and Mohinder long before that.
“And what are your views on that?” he asked.
Claire half-shrugged. “It’s fine... I just.” She smiled at him crookedly. “I might actually miss the apartment.”
Gabriel laughed and kissed her again.
“You know...” Claire continued, “I’m beginning to realise why Angela wanted you to get the master bedroom.”
Gabriel snorted. “Well, you and Peter already have a room, and Peter would have refused the master bedroom anyway.” He smirked. “But I get your point.”
Behind Gabriel, Claire saw Noah enter the corridor again and sighed. “I know you have to settle things here, but... please don’t take too long, today?” She looked up at him. “They will be bagging on you, and then I’ll have to kick their asses, and that just gets messy,” she joked. But, jokes aside, she really wasn’t looking forward to some discussion group whose sole purpose would probably be to attack Gabriel in his absence and have Peter and her defend him. Not today.
“You’d kick asses for me?” he asked, grinning.
It made her laugh. “And then some.”
Gabriel pulled her into kiss. “I won’t be too long. Those two will be busy with each other, anyway.” He huffed. “They need it.”
“You don’t have to rush, either, though. I mean, he is your brother...”
Gabriel nodded. “Don’t worry.”
She gave him another kiss and joined Noah who was expecting her by the exit.
Gabriel looked after them until they were out of the corridor and then opened the door of the cell. “Okay, people. Time to get out of here,” he announced.
Mary glowered at him, Luke looked uncertain.
“You’re just letting me out?”
Gabriel tilted his head. “After the racket you made, I can’t. But you’re going to the clinic and get help.” He considered that. “Some time to figure out what you want.”
Luke just blinked, sharing a quick look with his mother.
“And I’m assigning our head psychologist to your case. There must be some advantage to having the crown prince as a brother, right?” he smirked.
Gabriel felt pretty damn good. He was sitting in the clinic’s cafeteria (most things in the building still new and only just getting close to being ‘up and running’, but the cafeteria, the patients’ rooms and some counselling offices were definitely close to welcoming) with Luke.
Calling the place “the Clinic” was about as creative as “the Company”, but it served its purpose well enough. Physically separated from what remained “Level 5” for everyone who had known it before, the clinic had a basic medical department, but was first and foremost a psychological institution, created for support and therapy. The clinic was also the place where Judith would eventually be transferred to, as soon as her body was recovered. The recovery of her mind being a way more lengthy process.
Several governmental institutions were strongly pushing for allowing funding, others were pushing the other way... so it was quite convenient that money would not be an issue until that political mud wrestling was over.
Gabriel had been assured that Doctor Gibson would soon join them, as well, and that Luke’s room was all but ready.
They weren’t doing much, at that moment. Gabriel was just watching Luke taking two different tests on a handheld to compare them. One being the basic psychological profile, the other an aptitude test. Luke was filling in the second at a surprising speed, even.
Finally, Luke smugly held out the device. “Piece of cake.”
Gabriel studied both results. As he had expected, Luke wasn’t really dangerous, but he might have become that eventually. “You know...” he said, “those teachers who undoubtedly told you that you could get really good grades if you just sat down and did it were probably right.”
Luke rolled his eyes. “My teachers were assholes. I was bored with their shit, seriously.”
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “So you let some boring assholes take away your chances even if your mind could fly circles around them?”
Luke glared at him. “You have no idea...”
“Yes, I do,” Gabriel interrupted him. “You’re too smart for the school system, and your teachers never realised that you should have skipped a grade or two. All the other kids think you’re a freak anyway, and then you prove them right by waking up one morning as a walking microwave.”
Luke looked away.
“It’s not my story, since I pretty much blended in with nobody noticing me most of the time, but you’re certainly not the only one too smart for an old system.”
Luke rolled his eyes. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Your IQ is bordering on genius levels, and you wanted to mug old ladies in Canada? Man, you must have been really bored.” He smirked. “I was thinking college, actually.”
Luke snorted. “Yeah right.”
“We just have to find what you’re good at, have you do the right tests, and I guarantee you they’ll take you in a heartbeat.”
There was that thing that almost looked like hope, again...
“Or you can, you know, still move to Canada.”
The snort this time was accompanied by a grin. “Just because you’re playing big brother now doesn’t mean you can talk me into going to college.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Gabriel said, sarcastically. “You didn’t want to go?”
Luke fidgeted. Chemistry had for obvious reasons always interested him. Or it would have, if it had gone beyond heating up some stupid liquid and watching it amazingly change colour. There were aeons of things to know there, he knew... “I kinda like Chemistry,” he said, barely audible.
Gabriel smirked. “You’re a walking cliché.”
“Fuck you,” Luke shot back, but he grinned widely by now. He turned his head when he saw his mother come back, looking somewhat apprehensive, but also relieved.
Gabriel looked up as well. “Mary. Everything settled?”
She nodded, tensely. “They needed more people for administration in this place, and I’ve done enough office work to fit the bill.”
Gabriel smirked at the expression on her face. It looked like she didn’t want to be thankful to him but had to be anyway. “And we’re paying well.” Not to mention that everything around there was still in its very early stages and whoever managed to get in, now, would move upwards quickly.
“And I can stay here until I find an apartment.” It wasn’t like she felt bad for taking all his offers for help; after all, their first encounter warranted some sort of compensation...
Her eyes flickered to the test Luke had taken, sitting down next to her son. “How did the tests go?” she asked, trying not to sound too worried. Normal kids didn’t usually run around threatening people.
“Apparently, I’m a genius,” Luke said.
“I said bordering on genius levels, smartass.” Gabriel took the device and handed it to Mary. “He’s unsurprisingly a little troubled, but that’s what he’s here for. And he’s going to college,” he added the last part, smugly.
“I didn’t say yes,” Luke protested.
Gabriel just looked at him.
“Oh, fine,” Luke huffed. “I’ll think about it.”
Mary stopped trying to read the test results and stared at Luke who kept his own eyes firmly on the clasped hands in his lap, then she turned to Gabriel. “It takes less than an hour with you, and he agrees to go to college?” she demanded, incredulously. “Are you serious?”
Gabriel just smiled benignly, then stood, when he saw someone else approach. “Madeline!” he greeted the doctor and pulled her into a hug.
“Hello, Gabriel.” She smirked at him. “You’re doing well, I hear...”
Gabriel blinked. “Who the hell were you talking to already?” The rumour mill was apparently running at full speed...
She laughed. “I had Angela on the phone a minute ago.” The smile faltered. “And, uh, you should probably head over there. She was asking for you.”
Gabriel sighed. “Yeah, I was...” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Anyway,” he changed the topic. “Doctor Gibson, these are Mary Campbell and her son Luke.”
Madeline smiled at them and shook their hands in turn. “Pleasure to meet you both.”
“Mary will be working at the clinic, too, so that should make things easier,” Gabriel added, now almost fidgeting, visibly wanting to leave, despite having something that constituted as ’a good time’ with his newly found little brother.
“Yes, I heard,” Madeline confirmed.
Gabriel took the handheld from Mary and gave it to Madeline. “Madeline will be your therapist for the time being,” he said to Luke. “And if I hear a word of complaint about how you don’t need it, I’m going to remind you of your little stunt at the main office.”
Madeline laughed a bit at Luke’s sour expression. “Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds.” She held up the device in her hand. “According to this, it’s mostly about finding your niche, it looks like?” She looked at Gabriel who nodded in confirmation. “And maybe some guilt issues, but we can deal with those as they come up.” She smiled, confident. “There is no rush.”
Luke averted his eyes again. He tried to ignore the guilt, but in the end, it was what had made him come to New York in the first place, and he knew that.
His mother’s opinion on the death of that agent by now was more along the lines of ‘good riddance’. She had not at all been happy to hear what those agents’ goal had been, not if it included her son. Her life had definitely turned her into a pragmatic sort of fighter. But she hadn’t been the fighter to kill a person...
Gabriel grinned. “Well, we can’t all be as cooperative as me.”
Madeline laughed. “I’ve found that people will be when given the right reasons.” She sobered. “They will sooner or later find their reasons, too, you know,” she said, clearly talking about someone who was not present. “And I think it would help if you were there, right now.”
Gabriel took a deep breath. “Okay, then.” He clapped his hands, once. “I have to go, so I’ll let you guys settle in,” he told Luke. “I’ll pop by again when I have the time.” To Madeline he said, “You have my number, can you give them the contact information, too?”
Madeline appeared startled for a moment, Gabriel was usually a very private person when it came to that, but then nodded. “Of course.”
“Good.” He did a sardonic little wave and was gone.
Mary huffed and turned to her son. “Are you sure that’s the same guy?”
“Definitely the same guy. Smug bastard.”
Claire was getting frustrated. She had expected that; what she hadn’t expected was that the frustrating part was not as expected having to defend Gabriel but waiting for it.
They were sitting in a conference room of the Petrelli (soon to be Bennet-Gray-Petrelli) home, Claire and Peter on one side of the table, Matt, Mohinder and Tracy on the other, Noah at one end, discussing matters, quietly, if a bit tensely. So far, it had been all talk about the press plan and the changes Tracy wanted to make, the evaluation that Mohinder had worked on from the other end, and finally the progress the police had made with finding everyone responsible for the abuse on young Judith.
And just when Claire had been reasonable calmed by the assurance that none of them would get away with what they had done, and Tracy’s confirmation that this could be presented in the media without any hassle for the girl... a question came up that Claire just knew would get things closer to home. A lot closer to home.
Matt straightened in his seat. “Do we know something new about the kid yelling Sylar one too many times?”
Claire and Peter shared a look, not sure how the answer to that question would go over with Matt and Mohinder in particular (since Tracy never really had the pleasure of meeting Sylar).
Noah for his part did not hold back. “Well, his DNA analysis was insightful,” he said, nonchalantly, a cynical little smile twisting his lips. “Apparently, his mother was raped by Samson Gray about eighteen years ago.”
Claire sent him a dirty look, but couldn’t really blame him for answering the question. It wasn’t like they could have just not answered it.
It took both Mohinder and Matt a moment to understand, then Matt breathed deeply and leaned back.
Mohinder was the one to ask, wide-eyed. “He’s Sylar’s brother?”
Claire used her look on Mohinder now. “His name is Gabriel.”
Mohinder briefly looked abashed, Matt was less restrained.
“Oh, you, too, now?”
Claire exchanged a look with Peter, then calmly returned to look at the two men across from them. “That is his name. I should have made that clear, earlier,” for a second regret ran through her, but she knew well enough that she simply hadn’t been ready before. “We... have worked our asses off to get this project running. Gabriel included. Actually,” now that she was getting started, she didn’t feel like stopping, “Gabriel has probably done most of the work.” She turned to Mohinder. “Who do you think did Madeline Gibson work with? Who gave her the results on varieties of abilities we didn’t even ever meet the people carrying them that she needed to create the evaluation you used for your research? Who found her in the first place?”
Mohinder returned her look. He’d had the suspicion, but the scientist in him didn’t let him ponder it in detail, the results he could deliver were more important to him. Now that he had confirmation... the results were still more important. The progress they’d made... it was, simply put, amazing, and he couldn’t make himself regret the source of the material. He couldn’t.
And if Claire and Peter defended the man so passionately, maybe he hadn’t even made a deal with the devil, after all. Maybe it had been with... something he had to find a definition for, first.
Claire noticed his reaction and, for the time being satisfied with it, looked straight at her father, as much talking to him, as she was sending a signal to everyone else.
“We can’t do this without him. We couldn’t have so much as started without him.”
Noah held her stare, then forced himself to release the breath he was holding and averted his eyes.
“So, fine,” she said to Matt defiantly, who was still looking at her incredulously. “I might not have spent years in his nightmare like Peter did, thanks to you. But two months were enough.” Defiance became daring. “Something you could do in seconds, if you read his mind again.”
Matt crossed his arms. “I’m not going anywhere near that head. I’ve seen it more than often enough, and the last time he was still clinging to his memories of the nightmare. That doesn’t even count.” The moment the words left his mouth he realised that his reasoning had gaping holes in it, but that didn’t change his personal view on the matter.
“You’re afraid,” Noah said into the silence, lifting his head to look squarely at Matt. “You’re afraid, just like me, that he will prove you wrong, aren’t you?”
Matt stared at Noah, but didn’t say a word. As did Claire, but Noah ignored her.
“You know what I’m even more afraid of, by now?” Noah continued, his voice still deceptively light. “Him proving us right.”
Claire’s wide-eyed stare seemed almost hopeful.
Noah allowed himself to focus on his daughter. “I’m going with you on this, but only because you’re not leaving me with a choice.” His eyes wandered briefly to Peter. “Either of you.” He sighed and looked at Claire again. “I really hope you’re right. The alternative is…” He couldn’t say it and Claire’s hesitant smile made him break the eye contact. He might not have had a choice, but he still felt like throwing up.
Matt and Mohinder watched the exchange uneasily.
Tracy for her part merely took everything in. If she was going to take over the PR – and at this point, she really wanted to – she needed to understand all of the dynamics in this dysfunctional little group. She reserved judgement on Gabriel Gray, mostly because she never had to deal with Sylar face to face, and while Nathan was a reason to hate the man, Claire and Peter’s implicit trust were to be taken into consideration, too.
That was when the uncomfortable and tense silence was broken by Angela entering the room. “Ah. Nobody is dead, yet. Good,” she said, leaving the door open a bit, not really making eye contact and striding towards the table, purposefully. She stood at the head of the table, facing Noah who immediately glared at her.
“Did you know this would happen?” he demanded to know.
Angela shared a quick look with Claire who only just realised that Angela having seen what would happen between her and Gabriel was a very real possibility. Angela smiled, serenely. “Of course I knew,” she told Noah.
Noah didn’t seem surprised by the answer, but that didn’t lessen his anger. “And you just thought it would be a good idea?” he asked, sarcasm dripping from every word.
Angela’s smile disappeared. “I did not like what I saw. Certainly not the first time I saw it.” She straightened. “But, yes. I approve of this development, and even if you don’t believe this now, so will you.”
Noah just huffed. “Not all of your predictions come true, Angela.”
The smile was back, this time with a visible portion of smugness. “Then you will do everything to make sure that this one does, won’t you?”
Noah felt as if he had been slapped. Both in the admonishing way and in the way that shakes one awake. And he was awake, now. Painfully so.
Angela was right, he knew. No matter how much it filled him with sickening dread, hate and anger, he would do everything he could, if he could do anything at all, to…
His stomach in knots, once more, he forced out between his teeth, “You had better be right about this.”
“Okay, what the hell was this all about?” Matt asked, once the verbal tennis match appeared to be over.
Angela turned towards him. “As so often, it was about Gabriel.”
Tracy crossed her arms, smirking. There had been obviously something she was missing, but something else just dawned to her. Angela was still for all intents and purposes leading the Company, even if she left most decisions to other people, these days. However…
“You’re appointing Gray as the new CEO, aren’t you?”
This was news to everyone, even Claire and Peter, and everyone stared at Angela, who took entirely too long to deny the statement.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Matt blurted out.
“He is the perfect choice,” Angela said, firmly. “The only one who can see both sides of the coin, understands all aspects.”
“Doesn’t change who he is and what he did!” Matt insisted, still incredulous. This could not be happening. How could anyone expect people to follow the lead of a man who had a past like Sylar?
Claire narrowed her eyes. “Could we maybe wait with planning his life until he’s here?” Sure, Angela didn’t plan on taking control away from Gabriel, not at all, but he should still be present.
“But there is nothing to plan,” Mohinder added, surprisingly calmly. “He is too dangerous; he cannot be put into a position of such power. We don’t even know yet how influential this company is going to be in the future, but chances are that it will be...” he helplessly looked for the right word, “... like nothing we’ve encountered before.”
Peter angrily clenched his jaw. “And who would you have in that position, then? Someone who conveniently forgot that they lost control because of their powers?” He pointedly raised an eyebrow at Mohinder who had the decency to look chastised. “Like, I don’t know...” he added, sarcastically, “all of us?”
Matt shook his head. “None of us lost it like him.”
Peter looked at his mother. “That is up for debate.” Okay, maybe it was not a very nice thing to do to remind everyone what the current head of the Company had done because of her visions, but it was nonetheless necessary. Weren’t the painful things necessary sometimes...? Peter pondered that for half a second, sardonically.
Angela’s lip twisted, painfully, but she didn’t answer that.
“Why not you, then?” Mohinder asked Peter. “You’ve got to be more stable.”
That startled a chuckle out of Peter. “Right, I forgot. You don’t know what I did when I was running around with Sylar’s intuitive aptitude for a bit.” That was after all not something he liked to talk about, too much, himself. Under the circumstances, he probably should. “It was in the future. A future that won’t happen, now, thankfully. But I killed Nathan.” He let that sink in for a second. “Then I came back and tried to kill my mother.” His eyes went from Matt to Mohinder and finally Tracy. “Gabriel stopped me. Oh, and right,” he added, mock-cheerfully, looking at Mohinder, “who saved me when I was in your clutches when you lost it?”
Mohinder looked away and was suddenly very aware of Tracy sitting next to him.
“None of us have any room to talk,” Peter concluded, slumping in his seat. He was getting tired of this.
Matt crossed his arms. “You didn’t have him in your head for months.”
Peter glowered at him. “No, I just spent five years in his. Both of which was your fault, anyway.”
“Thanks, by the way,” Claire suddenly piped up, quietly, looking at Matt. “For that second thing. It really helped him, even if that wasn’t what you wanted to do.”
Matt didn’t know what to say to that, but he looked like he couldn’t just go with a customary ‘you’re welcome’ because he really wished he’d never done it if this was the result.
Which, of course, Claire was well aware of. It was why she’d said it. She also wanted to make Matt see the other side of the equation that he was a part of, as well.
The commotion from the furniture company outside of the room saved Matt from having to say something, mostly because a voice directed some of the workers upstairs. A very familiar voice.
Claire breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally,” she breathed out explosively, pushed back her chair and got up, her hands slapping on the table in the process. Then she was out of the door.
Peter couldn’t help but grin. “Uh, Matt... you should read Gabriel’s mind. Right now.”
Matt cleared his throat, and since he didn’t have a valid excuse anymore, he did as he was asked.
Mohinder looked confused; Tracy on the other hand smirked and looked at Peter.
“Are you serious?” she asked him, just as Matt’s eyes widened.
Peter looked entirely too pleased with himself and focused on the emotions reaching him from the other side of the still open door. “I think I can almost see pink, heart-shaped bubbles flying around the room,” he said, smirking and moving his fingers as if to illustrate the bubbles’ flight patterns.
Tracy already considered the impact that revelation would have on her work and decided it was something she could deal with, while Mohinder’s jaw went slack when the man realised what everyone was implying.
Matt suddenly blinked and jerked in his seat. “He’s serious,” he breathed.
“Of course he’s serious!” Peter burst out. “That’s what I’ve been saying all this time.”
Noah, who had been trying not to think about what was going on, was now staring down Matt. “How serious?”
For a long moment, the two men were in complete accord. Matt hated what he would have to say, and Noah hated what he knew he would hear, and both were by now more afraid of the alternative.
Matt was bombarded with another wave of thoughts from the hallway. The thoughts were so strong and emotional that he couldn’t block them for a disturbingly long while. Thoughts of love and belonging and sheer, blinding joy that made him startle again. They were thoughts he himself had with his family; his wife, his little boy.
There was only one answer to the question Noah had asked him. Gabriel was serious about his situation, his feelings, his family, his love, his life, his future; he was as serious as any of them.
“Serious,” he grudgingly admitted.
“Are you sure?” Noah asked again.
“Yes, I’m sure!” Matt snapped.
“Thank you,” came Peter’s soft voice. “From me, too.”
Matt stared at him. “I locked you in a nightmare with him for years, and you’re thanking me?”
Peter didn’t seem fazed by the harsh tone. “It was worth it,” he said, matter-of-factly. And it was, so much.
Gabriel was currently very much of the same opinion. He had been directing the moving crew upstairs and was on his way to the conference room, when Claire had burst out of the room, smiling widely at him.
The next thing he knew was that he had lifted her by the hips when she had reached him, pulled her up, let her wrap her legs around his torso and kissed her, laughing.
He had expected some more restraint; what he got was so much better. Warmly glowing feelings directed at him, sweet kisses and playful tongues, dancing around each other, neither caring about the people now walking up and down the stairs.
And Claire didn’t feel like stopping. The lazy kisses felt too good, tasted too good, made her feel like she had the night before when it was just the two of them. At one point, however, she felt Gabriel slowing down and ending the kiss with a parting sweep of his tongue against hers.
“How is the conference going in there?” he asked against her lips.
She huffed in amusement. “They’re planning your life behind your back for a change.”
Gabriel’s eyebrows went up. “Oh, really?” he played right along. “Interesting change of pace.”
She grinned and leaned in for another kiss. “And I got to kick some ass.”
“Not that much, though. But Peter did, too.” She tilted her head. “And my dad, in a not exactly sensitive way.”
This time, Gabriel’s surprise was real, but he was also sceptical. “Did he, now?”
“He pretty much told Parkman he was a coward for not reading you. And I think he’s actually more afraid of you proving them right than the other way around.”
Gabriel blinked. “That sounds... vaguely supportive,” he noted.
Claire grinned. “I’m not holding my breath, but...” She kissed him, then eyed the stairs mischievously. “Did they just bring our bed?”
Gabriel grinned back. “They did.” Another kiss.
Claire reluctantly ended it, sighing. “Later.”
“Definitely,” Gabriel said, his voice lower and his eyes a shade darker.
Claire disentangled herself and landed on the floor, planning on going back into the other room, but then pulled a grinning Gabriel back into a kiss, anyway. She sighed, dramatically. “Ready to face the Spanish Inquisition?” she asked, taking his hand.
“Didn’t expect that one...” he said, snickering.
Claire laughed and pulled him into the room, resisting pointing out that ‘nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’.
The mood in the room was somewhat subdued, mostly because Matt and Mohinder were running out of reasonable arguments against Gabriel.
Peter grinned at Gabriel as they entered. “How’s the little brother?” he asked cheerfully.
Gabriel sat next to Peter, which seated Claire between him and Angela who had by then taken the chair at the head of the table facing Noah.
“College plans,” Gabriel said, smirking.
Peter frowned playfully. “What happened to ‘the brat’?”
“I talked to him.”
“Oh, did you?”
“Just like that?”
“I’m awesome,” Gabriel closed, deadpan, making Peter snort and Claire laugh.
“You’re on a roll,” Peter accused.
“I am,” Gabriel confirmed, deciding that acting the way he always did at home when he felt comfortable with Claire and Peter was the best course of action to make people see. Then snapped his fingers. “That reminds me.” He looked around. “Do we have a...” He stood and walked to a desk at the side of the room, leaving some amused and some confused faces at the table. He picked up the handheld device he found there, turned it on and logged into the system, looking for Luke’s results from earlier.
He returned to the table and held it out for Mohinder to take with the right file open. “I used the new set of questions on this one.” Mohinder took it. “Worked like a charm.”
Mohinder’s trepidation disappeared within seconds of him studying the results, the scientist in him taking over. “Oh, this is good,” he muttered mostly to himself, nodding.
“By the way...” Peter said, leaning back in his seat sounding very pleased, “mom wants you as CEO.”
“What?” Gabriel felt like he should say more, but no other words would make sense to him. “I... What?” When he still couldn’t think of something to say, he directed his incredulous stare at Angela.
She appeared less impressed by the outburst. “You know damn well you’re the best for the job.” She huffed. “You’ve been doing it for two months, already, we just kept your name mostly out of it.”
“But I was just...” He was going to say that he was merely doing the tests, recruiting specialists, helping analyse abilities and the best therapy methods, shadowing Claire when she had to go out, aiding in creating the press plan... He blinked.
Peter hummed a little laugh. “Doing the job for two months without your name coming up?”
Matt looked about ready to spit nails.
Mohinder considered the pad in his hand, and while he’d had suspicions before, he now realised that Gabriel must have done a lot more than he had initially assumed, and it added up. There had been so many little details and information, several instances that now made sense... all moments that had inspired the certainty in him that they were on the right track, that things were looking up, that they actually had the capability to do this right, that they were not headed towards some frightening abyss or end of the world as they knew it.
... And they were connected to Gabriel Gray. Mohinder wasn’t sure what he thought of that. Instead he dared to lift his head and look at him. Saw him still lock eyes with Peter, slowly realising that Peter had a point.
Finally, Gabriel shrugged. “I like doing that.” He liked feeling useful, helping people, doing what he knew was right.
Angela nodded, once, satisfied. “You realise that it would ease all our work if the things you did were in your name and you could directly communicate with people.”
Another shrug, but a considerably smaller one, and Gabriel kept his eyes firmly on the tabletop. “Communication was a lot easier when people didn’t know it was with me.”
Angela was not a person who took inefficiency well. “Then they will have to deal with it,” she declared, firmly.
Matt’s head went up at that. “So we should just forgive and forget? Is that what you’re saying?” he asked her, angrily.
“No,” Gabriel immediately replied. “Of course not. I’m not asking for that, I’m not expecting it. I’m not even trying to make up for what I did, because I couldn’t. All I can do... is do what needs to be done.”
Peter nudged him. “And sometimes you might find forgiveness, anyway.”
Gabriel turned to look at him, his eyes full of love and gratitude, and after a deep breath he turned back to Matt. “Let me do what I can. I can,” he swallowed, “do so many things I couldn’t have done before.” Before Sylar, though he did not name it. “Something good has to come from the price that was paid.” His voice rose at the end of the sentence, as if it was a question.
Matt returned his look for a long moment before he averted his eyes, resignation and pain clear in his expression. “There had better be something,” he grumbled, finally allowing that Gabriel might actually be an asset nowadays. And the man was right; the price that had been paid for him to be who he was today was after all more than high enough.
Gabriel relaxed gradually in his seat, and more still when Claire took his hand.
Tracy had been following the exchange, curiously. “The press should get a name and a face for the head of the Company, soon, anyway.” She kept her eyes firmly on Gabriel. “And from what I’ve seen and heard, you already know how to deal with them.”
Gabriel gave a nod. “We did reasonably well, so far.”
She nodded her consent and then tilted her head, amused. “Which really only leaves the two of you to deal with…”
Gabriel and Claire shared an uncomfortable look. Yes, they would have to deal with the press on personal as well as professional matters, Claire had had that experience before, and it had mostly been an empty nuisance. Now that the press would have something to sink their teeth in, the situation was entirely different.
Gabriel voiced both their main concern. “Can we keep this private for at least a little while?” And gaining some time for just them, to just be together, no interference or outside opinions. Just them.
Tracy smiled. “The public will be busy dealing with the Company and its executive staff for a while yet, so that shouldn’t be a problem.” The smile turned into a smirk. “But make no mistake, if we continue with the current plan – and I really think that we should – the press will turn both of you into… supernatural popstars.”
The popstars in question shared another look, this one a curious mixture of amusement, dread, incredulity and what-the-hell-are-we-doing-for-fuck’s-sake.
Peter helpfully just laughed at them.
After a very long day of both administrative and more practical work, Gabriel was finally sitting on his very new bed in a pair of shorts, reading and comparing some more test results, already contemplating more improvements, ready to call it a night, when Claire came in from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her.
“Still working?” she asked.
Gabriel half-shrugged and shook his head. He put the handheld on the bedside table and rubbed his face. “Just juggling a few thoughts.”
Claire smiled and climbed into the bed, straddling him. Even after less than a day, kisses already came naturally to her, as if this was where she had belonged all along.
Gabriel smiled into the kiss, running his fingers through her still moist hair, lazily entangling his tongue with hers. “I like your toothpaste,” he said after a long moment.
Claire huffed a laugh against his lips. “You use the same as me.”
“Well... I like it better coming from you,” he said, playfully and pulled her back, proving his point.
Claire laughed into the kiss, but soon lost herself in it, all to aware of the closeness, the comfort and the heat.
Amazement hit Gabriel again when he realised that none of the past hours had been a dream, that he indeed did have Claire with him in his bed, kissing and caressing him. Amazement and then something resembling desperation when he remembered the unfulfilled want he’d felt before, a want that he had been certain would never be fulfilled and now it was anyway. He had to break the kiss and crushed her to him.
Claire understood without having an ability that would have told her for certain. She didn’t need it.
She kissed the patch of skin in the crook of Gabriel’s neck. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Gabriel kissed her temple in return, breathing an almost-sob. The day had kept him so busy that he’d never had the time to think about this, what it meant, what they felt, what would happen now. His eyes watered. “I love you so much,” he said, his voice raw with emotion.
“I know,” she mumbled against his skin and then pulled back to look into his eyes. She smiled. “I love you too.” She waited until she could be sure he knew that she wasn’t lying, then her smile turned a bit rueful. “I’m not sure what exactly that means, though,” she admitted. His answering happy smile sent a tingling warmth through her. “Right now, I guess it mostly means that I want to know you’ll stick around, and that I can’t get enough of you.”
He ran a soft finger over her cheek, grinning. “I can relate to that.”
“Oh, really?” she asked, huskily, and he could only nod before she licked her way into his mouth again.
He made to removing her towel and threw it to the floor, kissing down her neck. “I could eat you alive,” he said, swirling a trail with his tongue, nipping the skin every now and again.
She moved around and pushed him back, until they were far enough down the bed so that he could lie on his back. She looked at the position, pleased with the way Gabriel was stretched out for her. “The sentiment is very much returned,” she finally answered his comment and kissed from his neck down his torso, proving her point by biting a nipple on her way down.
Gabriel’s head was thrown back and his eyes closed. He breathed deeply and gasped at times, taking in every single sensation she caused, both physical and emotional. The amazement that she would so much as consider worshipping his body in such a manner still present. When she kissed over his stomach, he whimpered desperately and moaned a tiny moan, both seemingly repeating his declaration of love again, because the words wouldn’t come to him anymore.
The words did come to her, though. “Love you,” she whispered, kissing his skin right above the hem of his shorts, before moving them down and out of the way. When she returned to his middle, she allowed herself to look this time, take everything in, run tentative fingers over hardening flesh, marvelling at the reaction that caused.
“Claire...” Gabriel moaned desperately.
Curiously, she leaned in and kissed the side of the cock in her hand. At the answering twitch and moan, she boldly licked her way to the glistening tip, first kissing and the engulfing it.
Gabriel tilted his head, because he needed to see... his hands finding their way to her hair, careful not to pull but only tremblingly pet... “God, Claire...” If she didn’t stop this very soon, his restraint would be shot to hell; then again, he didn’t really want her to stop, but maybe he should make her, or maybe not, or... “Oh, God. Stopstopstop!” he babbled, and she lifted her head, smirking smugly and crawling up over his body to straddle him again.
“You are going to let me finish that some other time, right?” she smirked at him.
Gabriel huffed a breathless laugh and pulled her into a heated kiss. “Some other... hmm... time,” he confirmed, and with a flick of his fingers, a condom flew into his hand. “Right now, I want you like this. Just like this.”
Claire could live with that and took the condom, rolling it on him a little more slowly than was strictly necessary, he thought, but when she moved to situate herself above him, he decided that he didn’t have any room to complain. Not... at... He moaned loudly when she lowered herself onto him, registering her answering moan somewhere in the back of his mind.
She braced herself on his shoulders with both hands, taking a moment to find a rhythm that drove both of them even deeper into madness than they’d already been, gasping and moaning when he gripped her hips and moved his own in tune with hers.
The heat spread out from her belly, her movements grew erratic and she threw back her head. “Gabriel!”
“Yours,” he answered, and she could only just make out the word that sounded more like a moan or a sob than anything.
And then she was lost, only not really, because he was hers, and she was his, and they would remain just that, she knew.
Three years later
Gabriel opened the door of the small shop, the bells above dancing merrily. It had been so long since he’d last been here. And naturally it would feel even longer to him.
He stepped closer to the worktable an old man was sitting behind, engrossed in what he was doing.
“I’ll be with you in a moment,” the man said, not looking up.
Gabriel didn’t answer and let him continue. Instead, he looked around the shop. It looked about as he remembered, though to be honest, he hadn’t paid much attention to the decor the last time.
Some things did catch his attention, however. There was a picture frame standing on the worktable. It was slightly pushed to the side and turned a little, presumably to ease the work, which was why Gabriel could make out the picture it was holding. It was an image cut out of a newspaper, a picture of himself and Claire, smiling at the camera. If he remembered correctly, it had been at some charity event that they regularly attended, both because they wanted to raise awareness to the topic at hand, and because they needed the media exposure. Not that there was a lack of positive exposure. Things were going exceptionally well.
His eyes continued roaming and fell on a stack of tabloids and magazines to the side of the room. Gabriel knew the one on top – again, it showed him and Claire – it was quite new. Every now and then, magazines only focused on one of the two of them, but as a general tendency, they were seen as a sort of unity. Which was a good thing, according to Tracy. It made them normal, more approachable. A couple in love was, after all, a universal concept.
This magazine in particular was speculating on the cover about a possible impending marriage. Which was not surprising; articles of the likes had popped up all the time ever since their relationship had been announced. ‘Clariel – Wedding Soon?’ it read.
Gabriel had to hold back a snort. Clairiel had to be one of the most ridiculous inventions, however true it might have been to ‘good’ journalistic meshing of names. The first time it had been used, Peter had laughed for a week. And, of course, once the term had been coined, that had been that. They had been Clairiel ever since.
A soft clinking sound startled him out of his reverie, and he saw the old man finish his work, set aside the watch that had been in his hand, look up... and freeze.
“Hello, Martin,” Gabriel said, softly.
Martin Gray stared, and his hands shook as he took off his work glasses and put on his regular ones. He stood. “Gabriel...”
“It’s been a while,” Gabriel noted.
Martin just nodded, uncertain, since most of their encounters hadn’t exactly been pleasant.
“Under better circumstances than last time,” Gabriel seemingly read his mind, although he didn’t really.
Martin once again nodded, huffing a painful laugh. “You could say that.”
“I found him, you know,” Gabriel continued. “He was sick and dying when I did, and I thought it appropriate to just leave him to it, since he was so good at it on his own,” he added, darkly. The old hatred and disgust flared up, finding its way to the surface easily, but not overwhelmingly. Not killing his father hadn’t been an act of mercy, it had been a punishment.
“He’s dead?” Martin asked.
Gabriel nodded. “Died about three years ago.”
Some of the tenseness around Martin’s eyes left him. “Good.”
“I remembered after a while,” Gabriel said, quietly, “what happened that day.” He kept a hold of Martin’s gaze.
“I was hoping...” He rephrased that in his mind. “Your mother especially was hoping that you might not. That you were too young.”
“I didn’t. Not for the longest time.”
Martin nodded. “It’s not in your biography, so I thought you got to live without it...”
Gabriel chuckled, it sounded almost painful. “A lot of things are not in my biography.”
“Your mo... Virginia. She is in it.” He sounded surprised at that fact. Especially, since the circumstances surrounding her death had been mentioned, as well.
Gabriel shifted on his feet. “That one was a matter of police records, and it... I wanted to show people that they need to talk about abilities to keep things from escalating.”
“I’m sorry,” Martin said.
“Me too.” Then Gabriel took a deep breath. “But I’m not here to poke at old scars,” he said, almost managing a smile. He’d done enough of the poking with people who knew all about his past; he didn’t need to burden this man with it, too. Not when he seemed to quite happily collect articles about the little boy that was once his, kept a picture on his desk, was capable of gaining some happiness from Gabriel just by knowing that he was around and doing well for himself.
Gabriel took out an envelope from the inside of his jacket and held it out for Martin to take. When he did, Gabriel looked around and grinned. “You’ve been keeping tabs of me?” he asked, amused.
Martin opened the envelope and huffed, his amusement also audible. “It was nice to see that something good came from all of the...” He didn’t finish the sentence.
Gabriel smiled. He had been right in his assessment.
Martin took out the card and startled.
Gabriel looked at him almost hopefully. “You’re...” he finally said at the questioning look he got, “the only dad I have.”
Martin for a very long time didn’t know what to say. “So the tabloids got it right for once?” was what he did say in the end.
Gabriel laughed. “Mere coincidence. They’re talking about a possible wedding periodically.”
Martin looked uncertain, holding the invitation in his hand. “I... don’t think I fit...”
Gabriel firmly shook his head. “You’re my dad, and I want you there to...” He smiled ruefully. “I guess I just wanted to show you that something good came from the past,” he repeated the old man’s thought from earlier.
Still uncertain, Martin ran a finger over the rim of the card.
“Just think about it?” Gabriel asked. “I mean, I didn’t know how you’d react to seeing me in the first place, so I’m actually pretty satisfied with how things turned out.”
That was a promise Martin could give. “I’ll think about it.”
For a brief moment, Gabriel felt like a little boy he might have been, but probably wasn’t. “Also... if you’re ever in town, you have full clearance, both at the offices and our home. Just drop by.”
Martin nodded, trying to process all that was happening. He had never considered seeing the boy again, and if he did, he expected contempt... not this.
Gabriel smiled. “I guess I’ll be seeing you around, then.” And, reasonably sure that after all the tabloid skimming Martin had done he wouldn’t freak out, he disappeared from where he stood.
Much like the last time Gabriel had visited him, Martin’s strength left him, and he sat back down. It felt considerably better, this time around, however.
Strong words were still ringing in his ears.
‘You’re the only dad I have.’
Back home, Gabriel took a deep breath when walking out into the garden. “Hello, ladies,” he greeted the two outside.
Claire was with him in a second, arms around his neck, kiss on his lips. “Hey, baby.”
He smiled first at Claire and then at her mother. “Sandra, hi.” He received another hug and a kiss on the cheek from her, as well.
“Hello, Gabriel. Ready for the final preparations?”
Gabriel cleared his throat, straightened and brushed a hand over his shirt in a cleaning motion. “Ready.”
Sandra returned to the table, and Claire took a hold of Gabriel’s hand, following her.
“Where did you go?” Claire asked. “Still troubles with that water controller?”
“Nope. That one is safely stowed away for the time being. I was in Baltimore,” he said, casually.
Claire stopped and turned to look at him, apprehensive. “How... did it go?” she asked, tentatively.
Gabriel smiled benignly. “He had a framed picture of us on his desk...”
The apprehension faded, making way for hope. “Yeah?” Claire had not expected that. After all, Martin Gray had left before, then had asked Gabriel to leave the second time... and he had ample reason to avoid being reminded of all the things related to his brother. “Is he… going to come?”
Gabriel shrugged, but he still smiled. “We’ll see. He looked happy enough to see me, but I didn’t want to pressure him. So… we’ll see,” he repeated.
They sat at the table, joining Sandra.
“You were talking about your father?” she asked.
“Or uncle or... whatever.” Gabriel preferred to think of Martin as his father. Not that the man was without flaws, but compared to Samson Gray, Martin’s flaws were easier to deal with.
No reason to dwell on that, since the ball was in Martin’s court now. “How are things coming along?” he asked, instead.
Claire huffed. “Since we left all the work to the wedding planner, it’s not that much for us... except choosing decor and cake and stuff.” That was very obvious, the table being full with image folders and all...
Claire and Gabriel both looked as if they’d rather have an appointment with the dentist.
Sandra smirked. “Don’t be like that. It’s your wedding, after all.”
Gabriel smirked back, lifted all the folders into the air with his telekinesis and let the pages ruffle. He lifted an eyebrow at Claire. “First page gets the deal.”
“Done,” Claire agreed, and Gabriel let the folders drop again, open at random pages. Claire cracked up.
“I am not having a pink wedding cake,” Gabriel said after a moment.
Sandra sighed a long-suffering sigh, obviously having had the same kind of discussion with each or both of them in some way before, but she couldn’t help grinning. “You’re just going to have to do it the old fashioned way.”
Gabriel snickered and took a hold of a folder. “How many tries do you think would it take to get a good combination?” he mused, making Claire laugh again.
After a long while of looking through the images and marking certain pages, Sandra spoke up again.
“By the way, I talked to Noah.” A mischievous little smile played around her lips.
Claire looked at her, curiously. “Are we going to like where this is going?”
The little smile widened, but the mirth stayed right where it was. “He agreed to giving you away.”
That was... unexpected.
Sandra laughed a bit. “He’s still not happy about it, but he would rather be close by. His words, not mine.”
Claire wasn’t really sure if she should be annoyed or happy with that. “Close by?” she repeated.
Gabriel just laughed. “He wouldn’t be Noah if he just said he wanted to walk his little girl down the aisle, not if it is to me.”
Claire rolled her eyes, but was quickly distracted by her mother’s hand on hers.
“He does want you two to work out,” Sandra told her. “It’s just... well... you know how he is.”
“An old dog,” Claire grumbled.
Gabriel smirked. “But he does know some new tricks...”
Which was true, too. Noah had adapted. He very often still complained, but he wasn’t blind enough not to see just how well things were going for everyone, even if his current consulting function put him directly under Gabriel in the command chain.
They had worked together well before, and now that they ultimately had the same goal, they didn’t just work, they worked out, dysfunctional as they may have been.
Sandra studied Gabriel for a long moment. “He thinks very highly of you, you know.”
“I know,” Gabriel surprisingly replied immediately. “Complaining aside, he actually listens to me when we work, he brings his ideas to me directly, and...” he grinned, “he only pulled a face when we told him we were getting married. Coming from him, that’s very nearly a blessing.”
Claire had to laugh again. “You’re so easy to please.”
He smiled at her until she blushed. “Not true. I only lowered my expectations when it comes to him.”
When he kissed her hand, she pulled him to her and kissed his lips, sighing. “Mom, can’t you choose a cake?” she whined.
“It’s your wedding,” Sandra said, laughing fondly. Being presented with those two, it was really hard not to support the relationship, history notwithstanding... even for Noah.
Claire leaned back in her seat again. “Exactly. I’m marrying him, not the cake.”
Gabriel laughed and tugged at her hand a little, making her look at him. “Come on. You can deal with some more preparations for two weeks...”
Claire pulled a face and groaned. Then her eyes fell on the open page in front of Gabriel. “Actually, I like that one.”
Gabriel tilted his head too and nodded his consent. “Classic,” he declared it.
“But I want something other than those stupid figurines on top. They look ridiculous.”
“No figurines,” Gabriel agreed wholeheartedly.
“Good,” Sandra quickly interrupted before they could get into it and took the folder. “We have a cake. Now you just have to decide on the food, music and decorations.”
“In honour of the B in Bennet, we want burgers, the Backstreet Boys and balloons,” Gabriel said deadpan.
Claire burst out laughing.
Sandra did her best to hold back her own laughter and merely raised an eyebrow. “I’m beginning to see some benefits of doing this myself.”
In the end, there were some balloons on the list. Sandra vetoed the other B’s.
Noah opened the door to the living room and for a moment merely watched Claire reading a book on the couch. He knocked on the doorframe, making her look up.
Claire smiled widely and put her book aside. “Hey!” she greeted him, all but skipping towards him into a hug.
Her smile widened, if that was even possible.
“So,” he said as the hug ended and cleared his throat. “Last day in freedom.”
Claire rolled her eyes and swatted his arm.
Claire honestly shook her head. “No, I think we have everything down to a T. I have my dress, the boys have their suits, and Gretchen will be over later,” she listed. ‘The boys’ referring to Gabriel, his best man Peter and little brother Luke.
“I meant the more... symbolic aspect,” Noah said, diplomatically.
“I’m not nervous,” Claire said again. “I just...” she shrugged and looked in her father’s eyes, hopefully. “I just really, really want this.”
Noah returned the look for several heartbeats. “I know,” he finally said, almost smiling. “I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.”
Claire felt compelled to continue since he was apparently actually listening to her and more or less receptive to her words. “He makes me so happy, dad, you have no idea,” she said, her voice laden with emotion, begging him to understand. She loved her father, so much, and she wanted him to be part of this.
Noah did have an idea. How could he not? Still didn’t mean he had to like it... When he had agreed to give Claire away, he had sworn to himself that he would be happy for her. He didn’t even have to be happy for himself. He’d done so many things for his little girl, already. It was just one more.
He couldn’t make himself answer this statement, however. Instead, he managed a smile at her happiness and took a deep breath.
“Where is he anyway? He didn’t get cold feet, did he?”
Claire laughed a bit. “No. But he did need some air. He’ll be back later.”
“He’d better be,” Noah grumbled, making Claire laugh louder.
“Actually,” Claire added, “I do have an idea where he might have disappeared to. Could you take me?” It wasn’t like she could just walk out the door and go herself. Not anymore. And it gave her some time with her father on the way.
Noah’s smile seemed less forced, this time. “Lead the way,” he said, walking to the garage with her.
During their companionable ride, Noah hadn’t thought about where they were headed, but once they were there and could indeed see Gabriel seated on the ground, he couldn’t help but be very unsurprised.
They both got out of the car, and Noah spoke up: “It won’t take long until some paparazzi show up. You should be fine in there,” he nodded towards Gabriel, “but I’ll wait here, just in case.”
Claire nodded. “Okay, thanks.”
“And let him take you home. It’s safer. I’ll be there later.”
Claire knew very well what it had taken Noah to mention Gabriel and Claire and safer together, and it really only proved that maybe he was coming around, at least in some ways. She smiled at him widely and then went to walk over the cemetery towards where Gabriel was once again talking to Nathan.
Gabriel looked up and smiled at her when she reached him. “Hey there,” he said.
Claire sat next to him. “Hey.” She tilted towards him and leaned her head on his shoulder, not saying anything for a long time.
Gabriel accepted the silence and put his arm around her.
“Does your agreement still stand?” Claire finally asked, nodding towards the headstone, making Gabriel snicker.
“It does,” he confirmed. “I continue to try making you happy, and in return he lets me.” He kissed the top of her head.
Claire grinned. “Between the three of us, that would be a win-win-win scenario. I like it.”
Gabriel’s eyes fell on the gold necklace Claire was wearing. With a soft finger, he reached for it, brushing over it. “Are you going to wear this, tomorrow?”
Claire nodded. “You okay with that?”
“Sure. He should be there in some way, and I’d rather think of the good memories you all have of him than the bad ones. And that includes both what he did and what... was done to him.”
Claire smiled a bit. “I still don’t know if it’s freaky or kind of nice that you have so many of his memories.”
Gabriel huffed in amusement. “Neither do I.”
“Peter likes it,” Claire added, thoughtfully.
“Yeah, I know.” He grinned. “He didn’t always.”
Claire laughed a bit. “I can imagine.”
Again, they were both silent for a long time.
“I know that you were... angry at the deception. Of him being me underneath. But... it was him, Claire. Always him for you, not Sylar. I promise.”
Claire closed her eyes when her vision became blurry. She only just managed not to let a tear escape. She sniffed, once, smiling. “I love you so much,” she whispered.
Gabriel had to swallow, and kissed her head again. “Good thing, that, too. Or the whole fiasco with agreeing on table decorations would have been for nothing.”
Claire laughed, watery and turned to kiss Gabriel’s lips, caressing his cheek. “Ready to go home?”
Gabriel nodded. Yes, he was ready. He stood and helped her up, taking her by the hand. “Since we can’t have our burgers tomorrow, how would you like pasta and ice cream? Just the two of us and Peter and Gretchen when she gets there?”
Claire grinned widely. “That would be well within your agreement of making me happy,” she stated, making him chuckle.
He pulled her close to him and only then noticed Noah still standing by the car, doing his best to ignore a reporter who apparently tried to ask him a question.
Noah nodded, once, and Gabriel returned the gesture before disappearing with Claire in his arms.
Gabriel paced the entrance hall of their home, watching as guests were being led directly into the garden to where the ceremony would take place in... he looked at his watch... fifteen minutes. Where the hell was Peter?
“There you are!” the man in question announced, loudly.
Gabriel swivelled around. “Where the hell have you been? I’m dying here.”
Peter just smirked. “If you die now, Noah will kill you.”
At least Gabriel was smiling again, though he still nervously fiddled with his bowtie.
Peter stepped closer and smacked his hand away. “Stop it. You look great.”
Gabriel huffed, annoyed. “Why am I nervous?”
“Beats me. You spoke before the United Nations last month. I would have thought that would be worse.”
“Shows what you know.”
Peter snickered, then put his hands on Gabriel’s shoulders and looked at him, seriously, intently. “I’m so proud of you.”
Gabriel took a hold of Peter’s wrists, focusing on a button on Peter’s shirt. “I know.”
“Hey...” Peter said, tilting his head and coaxing Gabriel to look at him again. “You’re in love and getting married. Stop thinking.”
Gabriel couldn’t help himself, he pulled Peter into a crushing hug. “C’mere, you idiot.”
Peter snorted but returned the hug. “I’m the idiot? You’re the one nervous over something I know you want more than anything.”
“I do,” Gabriel said, without hesitation. “It’s just...” He breathed. “I know it’s our wedding, and I know that the photographer is one of our people, but it still feels like... this is a choreographed show for the media. And that’s okay,” he quickly added, “I know that we need it and that it helps us, the project, Specials all over the world really, and I want to help, we want to help...”
“Hey,” Peter interrupted him, pulling out of the hug to frame Gabriel’s face. “It’s your wedding, period. Everything else that comes with it is being dealt with by the people who are paid to deal with it. Just...” he shrugged, “... enjoy your day. It’s your day.”
Gabriel smiled weakly. He couldn’t really argue with that...
Their moment was interrupted by the soft click of the front door, and both turned towards the sound.
“Martin,” Gabriel said, walking to the man who was standing in the big entrance hall uncomfortably, taking off his hat.
Martin did take the hand Gabriel offered however and nodded at Peter when Gabriel introduced them.
“Mr Gray,” Peter nodded in return. “We’re very happy that you could make it,” he said, meaning it very much. Then he turned to Gabriel. “I’m gonna wait outside for you, give you a moment.” He held up a finger. “Don’t be late.”
Gabriel’s lip twitched. “I won’t.”
Once Peter was out the door, Martin cleared his throat. “I really only wanted to bring you something,” he said.
Gabriel blinked. “You won’t stay?”
“It’s not really my place.”
“It is,” Gabriel argued. “You don’t have to stay for the reception if you don’t want to, but... could you stay for the ceremony?”
Martin fidgeted. “I suppose I have the time,” he allowed, reaching into his jacket and taking out something small wrapped in a white napkin. He held it out for Gabriel to take.
Gabriel did and unfolded the cloth, carefully, knowing from the first touch that he was holding a pocked watch. The surprise came when he could finally see it. He startled and looked up. He remembered this particular piece. “This is your grandfather’s watch.”
Martin didn’t return the look, instead he explained. “It should go somewhere,” he said, noncommittally, “and they say you still know your way around timepieces, so I felt you should have it.”
“I do still know my way around timepieces,” Gabriel said, smiling softly when Martin looked up. “Thank you.” He expertly fastened it to his waistcoat, remembering the connection he’d had – for however short a period of time – with his erstwhile father.
Martin nodded to himself. “It’s in the right place.”
“Hey, man! Shouldn’t you be out there?” a voice that was distinctly not Peter called from the back door that led into the garden.
“Luke,” Gabriel waved the boy to him. “Come here a second.”
“You’re not getting out of this one by hiding in here, you know,” Luke smirked, walking closer.
Gabriel resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at him. “Luke Campbell, Martin Gray,” he said.
Luke startled, but caught himself quickly and held out a hand. “Mr Gray,” he said.
Gabriel smirked. “Luke is... another memento your brother left behind,” he explained to Martin.
Martin blanched and looked for a brief second as if he should be worried, but the bickering that started immediately dissuaded that notion.
“Oh, thanks a lot!” Luke complained. “One more of those, and I’m messing up your hair.”
“You’re not going anywhere near my hair, kid.”
“It won’t matter if you don’t get your ass out there, because then Bennet will skin you alive.”
“He did get to my hair, once,” Gabriel mused.
Luke snorted. “How did that go?”
“Locked him in a cell.”
Luke laughed. “Nice.”
Gabriel grinned at Martin. “He’s a good kid.”
Luke rolled his eyes.
“MIT,” Gabriel continued.
“Shut up, already.”
Martin seemed relieved and cautiously amused, though still very restrained.
The knock on the window and Peter waving at them ended that awkward family moment.
Luke patted Gabriel on the arm. “Get that show on the road. I’ll take... uncle Martin to his seat.”
Gabriel poked Luke’s chest. “Best behaviour.”
“In honour of your wedding. Move it, asshole.”
Gabriel grinned. “Brat.” Then he was out the door.
Luke turned to his... well, as he’d said... uncle. “This way.”
Martin followed the boy, haltingly. “I hope there’s a spot in the back...”
“Yeah,” Luke nodded. “I’d be back there too to avoid the photographer, but I promised Gabriel I’d be up front. And since he’s only getting married once... well, he’d better only do this once. This one was a bitch to pull off.”
He led the man outside and found him a seat in the very back, but they could still see Gabriel standing in front of the altar next to Peter.
“You two get along well?” Martin asked.
Luke grinned. “Sure. Though he has a really annoying big brother syndrome.”
Martin slowly shook his head. “I am... having a hard time imagining him coming to this...” he gestured around the elaborate decorations and finally at the happily glowing groom. He sighed. “Knowing my brother.” He seemed to realise that what he said was applying to Luke, as well. “Oh, I didn’t mean...”
“No, ‘s okay.” Luke smiled a bit weakly. “There are some... tough stories there, but they’re not mine to tell.”
Martin nodded, pensive. “I don’t believe they’re mine to know, either,” he decided. “You’re both doing well, which is nothing short of miraculous.”
Luke could only nod.
“You just keep doing well,” Martin added, almost imploringly, holding back the ’please’ he really wanted to add.
“Yes, sir.” Luke grinned his least modest grin and left for his designated spot.
Martin breathed deeply, keeping his eyes on Gabriel for the time being, thinking that he could take a peek at the reception, after all.
He did not register much of what he was watching after that point. He did see the beautiful bride being led to the front; he watched the priest talk and saw the couple take their vows, but he did not hear a word.
By the time the newlyweds kissed, hot tears were streaming down the old man’s face, his trembling hands brushing them away. And he thought that maybe, maybe... he was finally forgiven too.
Gabriel ended the kiss but let his hand cup Claire’s face for a bit longer, while holding her waist with the other. “You said yes,” he whispered, barely audible, only just loud enough for her to hear, his voice still amazed, despite everything.
Claire beamed at him, silent laughter making her shake under the hands holding her, and – conventions be damned – pulled him into another and more heated kiss.
Gabriel had forgotten about the expectations and the photographer and the press before, had allowed himself to just enjoy his day as Peter had suggested, but in this moment, in this one, unscripted, unexpected, tiny gesture that was so undeniably them, he forgot all about their day, as well, leaving only them. And neither could have been happier.
And if there was a small and benign ripple in time and space – an additional one, not the one coming from Hiro who was sitting among their guests – Gabriel didn’t really take notice. Not until much, much later.
It didn’t matter in the here and now. The new game of the world had begun, the players had been set around them, the dice had been thrust into their hands... and they had taken the chance and thrown them.
It was them. They could only win, really.
Three hundred years later
Hiro Nakamura re-appeared in an unfamiliar environment and looked around, disoriented for a moment. He had only just left the wedding he had watched from a hidden corner, the first stop he had made in his quest to see if Gabriel Gray could truly change, had truly changed.
At first, his last stop had startled him when he had to realise that he was a mere three years in the future from where he left the assembled Specials and Noah Bennet in Peter Petrelli’s apartment. Three years in which Claire Bennet would not only forgive Gabriel Gray, but decide to marry him.
He had not spent a lot of time there, after all, his other self had been present, and he didn’t want to be spotted. So he had set off, again, this time not looking for a redeemed Gabriel Gray, but latching onto something else.
That something had brought him here. Wherever and whenever this was.
He was on a sort of terrace of a house built at the slope of a forested hill, overlooking a lush space of dark green. It must have been early in the evening, the sky on the verge of turning darker.
He blinked in confusion when he saw something zip past it when he watched the sky. And then there was a slight ripple he could make out between the balcony he was on and the forest. A... sort of...
“It’s a force field,” his unvoiced question was answered and Hiro swivelled around, facing the man he had been looking for.
Gabriel smiled at him, the light from the inside of the house illuminating half of his face, while the other remained in the soft colours of the early night.
“Force field?” Hiro asked. “When is this?”
Gabriel looked amused. “It’s been a long time since you last visited, old friend. You were at our wedding, weren’t you?”
Hiro nodded, numbly. “Ah.”
“Three hundred years,” Gabriel said. “Give or take a little.”
Hiro’s eyes widened. “Three hundred?” He turned to look at the sky, again. “Anou... is that...?”
Gabriel grinned. “A shuttle. You missed one of the big spaceship launches, earlier today. It was quite the sight.” At Hiro’s continuously astonished expression, he added, “if you stay for a couple of hours, the Galileo docking station will come into view...”
Hiro lit up, immediately. “Station?”
“Thought you might like that...” The air of content amusement was wrapped around the man like a warm blanket. But despite the amusement, he appeared settled, calm, at peace.
“I’m curious, though,” Gabriel went on. “Why did you come here?”
Hiro was instantly brought back, as he remembered what he had been looking for in this time. His face closed off. “Sylar,” he said, firmly.
Gabriel tilted his head. “Sylar?” he repeated.
Hiro nodded. “I needed to make sure. I was looking for Sylar, because I wanted to know if he would reemerge.”
Gabriel paused for a second, then laughed out loud. “Sylar, huh?” He snickered. “Your aim is... not bad, considering.”
Hiro blinked. “Anou...”
“Don’t worry,” Gabriel chuckled. “Sylar is...” he looked for the right words, “was, really, a monster of his time.” He turned serious. “He was horrible, truly and utterly horrible,” he admitted with feel. “But he was also necessary. That I was the vessel of that... painful fire that had to burn to make way for something new will be with me forever. I... have found it in myself to accept my past, accept him.” The pensive smile returned. “And you will see what came after the pain, Hiro Nakamura. In your lifetime.”
Hiro didn’t know what to say, so Gabriel continued.
“Sylar is also on record, today. The whole story. You can look it up, if you like...” He thought about that for a second. “It’s really interesting how society reacted to him.” He slowly shook his head, as if he still couldn’t believe it. “It’s not like we condone murder today and just let the killers go, not at all. But there is no reason to lock away someone who is not dangerous and has even paid for what he has done.” He was glad that he could stand behind that policy. Punishment and help had to go hand in hand, in his opinion. Sylar’s case, however... When his story had come out, centuries had already passed, everyone knew Gabriel Gray as an important, cultural and political leader figure, and the crimes he had committed were considered repented for once the whole story was out and would have been time-barred at the time, anyway. Certainly, not everyone had agreed, there were always people who did not agree with the larger public, and it was their right to do so.
But to Gabriel’s utmost surprise... “Sylar has... become a symbol. A symbol for the painful letting go of the old to reach the new.” There was an undeniable light in Gabriel’s eyes. “And the new will be amazing, Hiro. You just wait and see.”
Hiro reluctantly nodded. “And Claire Bennet? Is she here?”
Gabriel’s lip twitched. “I haven’t heard the name Bennet in a long time.”
“Oh!” Hiro exclaimed once he realised that it would have to be Claire Gray, now, if she took his name.
“No worries.” He nodded towards the brightly lit window where one could see down about a story or two into a large living area. “She’s inside.”
Hiro made a few steps to the window and peeked inside. He immediately blushed furiously and turned around. “Sorry!”
Gabriel laughed. “No, I apologise. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. Times are so different, and with you being Japanese...” He chuckled. “Sorry.”
Claire was sitting inside on a couch, nursing a baby, and Gabriel looked fondly at the picture they made.
“You have a child?” Hiro finally asked, still standing firmly with his back to the window.
Gabriel nodded, not taking his eyes off his little family for a long moment. “He was born two days ago. He’s our seventeenth, actually.”
“Oh,” Hiro said, turning slightly to look at Gabriel’s proud expression.
Gabriel smiled at him. “The first Gray to be raised in space.”
Hiro blinked. “Space?”
“You caught us pretty much in the last possible moment on this planet. We’re leaving in five days, and we won’t be back for at least forty to fifty years, if we want to return at all.”
“You are leaving? Leaving earth?”
“We are,” Gabriel confirmed calmly. “It’s time. I think we are ready to start something new once more.” He looked at his wife and son, again. “He’s not the first Gray in space, but definitely the first one of a new era.” The proud glint was back. “Two of our kids are out there, right now.” His eyes flickered briefly to the night sky that was already considerably darker. “Nathaniel is a researcher, one of the best in his field, and...” he paused, his smile widening, as he realised something, “Ishi... is a commander at only thirty-three.”
“Ishi?” the familiar name rolled off his tongue, leaving a taste of loving melancholy.
Gabriel nodded. “Yes. She was classified a healer before she was born, and you always spoke very highly of your mother...”
Hiro could only stare. His mother... his mother’s name was now in space. That was... a good thought.
“Come inside, I’ll introduce you to our son,” Gabriel said to lead the way to less laden topics.
“Anou...” the embarrassed flush was back.
Gabriel chuckled. “Dinner’s over,” he commented, and, indeed, Claire was now modestly covered, holding the infant against her shoulder, rocking it gently.
When walking Hiro to the stairs which led down to the entrance, he added in a chatty tone, “If you stay a couple of days, Peter will be here, too. He’s coming with us.”
“Oh! Peter Petrelli is still alive?” That was good news. Hiro had not been certain what to expect when it came to Peter.
Gabriel’s answering smile was grateful. “He... is not tired of life, yet, thankfully.”
When a thought occurred to Hiro, his face fell. “Oh... but I should go back, soon.”
Gabriel merely grinned. “Don’t worry. You can return to every point in time you wish. They will be waiting in that living room for you.” He had to laugh a bit. “Me a nervous wreck, Noah more than slightly murderous, Peter the good soul he is, and Claire... my feisty little cheerleader.” He opened the door. “Don’t tell her I said that.”
The soft sound of a low, melodious hum reached them the moment they were inside.
“Hey, baby,” Gabriel started, “guess who’s here.”
Claire shifted the baby. “Isn’t it a bit early for Peter?” she asked and then looked up. “Oh, my God,” she breathed out, once she saw who their guest was. “Hiro!”
Hiro immediately bowed, formally. “Congratulations and best wishes, Claire... Gray.”
Claire smiled. “Thank you.”
Gabriel joined her, seating himself on the arm of the couch she was still on. “Hiro came here because he wanted to know if Sylar would reappear...”
Claire blinked, then laughed, making the baby jerk in his half-sleep. She took him off the shoulder and laid him in the crook of her arm. “And knowing you, you had an in-depth discussion about old endings and new beginnings...” she accused Gabriel, mock-seriously.
Gabriel smirked. “You know me too well.” He leaned in to kiss her lips, only peripherally aware of Hiro blushing and looking away again.
After a minute, Gabriel stood and stepped up to Hiro, announcing, “Hiro Nakamura, meet our son, Sylar Gray.”
Hiro’s eyes widened, as he stared at the newborn, now studying him as the miracle he was. “Sylar...” he breathed, marvelling how the sound of the name no longer held terror but sheer amazement.
Suddenly, the delighted laughter bubbled out of him and he clapped his hands, bowing again. “Welcome, Sylar Gray,” he said. Sylar, who would discover a new world, a new beginning, who would see a whole new era blossom.
The baby blinked sleepily, waved a little hand in an uncoordinated movement and then greeted the momentous significance, appropriately.
Thanks for the ride, you guys! I really liked exploring this story with you :)
Sorry for the complete lack of action in this, but I thought we get enough of that in the series ;) And dealing with people and situations and interactions is an adventure on its own, each encounter holding its own significance.
Here’s to hoping that you liked joining me, as I liked joining you :)
Please leave a little comment on your way out ;)