|My neighbor, the serial killer
Author: julyisfree PM
Claire Bennet finally found her perfect place in the world, unfortunately for her Sylar is her neighbor.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Claire B. & Sylar/Gabriel G. - Chapters: 15 - Words: 112,308 - Reviews: 131 - Favs: 56 - Follows: 67 - Updated: 02-11-13 - Published: 04-24-12 - id: 8056938
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: *shyly steps out*
Ok I don't have excuse other than college's live is hard. I know I should have updated sooner but oh well, here I am with another chapter *offers peace offering* I hope someone is still enjoying it :)
I want to thank all of you for reviewing, favoriting, alerting this story and for generically being awesome and bearing with me.
In other note, you don't have any idea how happy I was that some of you actually considered 'you look ridiculous', to write something; I thought that nothing would come from this but there were two stories that spring from it. Thank you so much Purple_Lex and lostiesgirl for taking the prompt and coming with such great ideas for it, I enjoyed every minute of it and of course thanks to those who showed interest on it sending PM's and reviews.
Said this, YES I'll continue with this 'Sylaire Challenge' as I'll call it from now on. So in celebration of it I decided to make two, you can choose one of the other or if the mood is in it, take the two to make one story, whatever suits you better.
First prompt: 'It's was Peter's fault'
Second prompt: 'Oh shit, Mr Muggles is dead'
The second prompt came to me for the idea of Sasha and Dominic, the dogs that Sylar posses in "The Protector" by cerberus angel a fic that I strongly recommend along with "Heroes Rebirth from the Ashes" by oldblueeyes and "Hello again" by PensAreAwesome. Is time for Mr Muggles to get off the pedestal I had placed him XD
This chapter is split in two, due to its long quality.
Disclaimer: I don't own Heroes I only borrow the characters for fun; none song of Poets of the Fall was listened while writing this chapter, nope *Lies*
CARNIVAL OF RUST PART 1
Saturday 3:44 pm, Murder's house.
Claire quickly inspected her clothes one last time over the silvered layered surface. Boots comfortable enough to walk in for a prolonged time, tight jeans really convenient if she needed to do a quick run, white light blouse…. Well, it was a hot day so sweating could be counterproductive and besides, the colorless of the fabric may deflect the attention from her always dismayed face. She steeled her expression in the mirror and sighed.
Time to run.
Taking her purse deliberately placed on her side door table and at an almost nonexistent pace, she opened her door. Her muscles stiffened, ceasing all movements before completely sliding out of the door with a contained breath. Her ears perked as she waited, listening attentively for any misplaced sound.
Her mouth leisurely curved upwards as she finally departed her apartment, wordlessly closing the door behind her. However her eyes scanned the hallway almost instinctually – it isn't bad to check, right? - and without further thought, landed on the brownish wood belonging to the door next to hers. Nothing; no sounds, no movement, no caterpillars eyebrows mounted on a narrow face came to meet her.
Claire ignored the itchy sensation mounting in her gut and, with a purposeful bounce in her steps, she left the place, not daring to delve in more. I don't care. She told herself.
This set-up triggered a memory of a similar situation in her mind, a fleeting reminiscence of when she was still living in California with her parents and sneaking out to meet with a certain boy. Of course the circumstances presented now were completely different. At that time, the person who she was avoiding was her dad, not Sylar of all the people, and she was by no means the same carefree teenager.
Claire frowned, unnoticed by her. Since her last encounter with her unlikely neighbor she had not spoken with him, least of all actually seen him. The apartment next door was suspiciously devoid of sound. Maybe he's dead. For some unknown reason the thought didn't bring the playful joy that it may had provided before. Her delicate brow constricted even more, completely failing to see a passerby until he was right in her line of sight. The old man shot her an odd look when they nearly collided, regarding her with disdain. Oh just look to other side, cowboy, she thought and even managed to convey all the nastiness of her thinking in her expression, if the way the man hurried his pace and disappeared behind a corner said anything.
Maybe he fell over a metal spike somehow or a broken pipe…. Unaffected by the world around her again, Claire continued with her musings. That possibility seemed unlikely though. Perhaps someone does want to kill him? No, she stopped that line of thought; she was not going to deal with that possibility anymore. He was crazy and paranoid and Claire would not be dragged down by his self-obsessed antics anymore. Dr. Gibson had assured her that nothing alerting had happened lately and if nothing has reached the ears of the company's employers, then by all means it meant nothing was wrong; nothing went lost in the company quarters. It was one of the many reasons why she worked there.
However, his words from the day before still resounded incredibly loud in her ears. 'I will find out what this is all about and if I need to follow you around, then I will do it.' Maybe he just gave up. Yes, it seemed uncharacteristic of him to actually do it, but many people had gave up on her by now that-
Wait a minute. I'm brooding about the fact that Sylar is not following me around anymore when I clearly told him to not do it? What is wrong with me?
"Claire!" Ryan called out as soon as he saw the petite figure of his protector round the corner and cross the glass doors. His hazel eyes prickled happily and his brown hair willowed around his cherubic features as he hurried to stand from his sitting position next to Norman, the security guard who watched the company building on the weekends. Ryan hurried to her side.
Apparently, she had reached the company quarters without her even noticing. She dangled all Sylar-related thoughts behind its usual curtain of banned feelings as she sprinted forward. A cheerful smile blossomed from deep within the blonde as she skimmed her arms around the boy, hugging him close. "Hi to you too," she drawled when they parted a little. Glancing at him with an arched eyebrow full of mirth, the kid ducked his head in response, feeling self-conscious about his burst of enthusiasm and lack of acceptable manners. Claire held his chin so he could look at her face. "I'm just messing with you, I missed you too," she said truthfully and as Ryan gave her one of his toothy grins showing some missing teeth, she felt all the worries drain from her system. Her strained and altogether stressed muscles relaxed and she smiled more contentedly. "So, are you ready to have the most fun and amazing day of your life?"
This is what he needed and she could offer it.
More normality away from him.
Roughly 3 pm, Sylar's apartment.
Dark spots danced around the edges of his closed eyelids, coiling and uncoiling until they finally stopped altogether. Sylar expelled a heavy sigh as he worked the necessary force to move his hand, pushing forward with his open palm against the hard material of the surface he was resting on and lazily moved his head backwards, opening his weary eyes in the process. Some strings of his dark - and he could only guess tussled - hair obscured his view. He combed it into a much more suitable semblance of order. A bright colorful screen greeted him back as his eyes racketed forward.
A laptop's monitor.
Great, he had fallen asleep over his desk. He scowled with annoyance. Did he have to sleep in such an uncomfortable position while his bed was only a few feet away? He left his wonderings unanswered as the gears of his mind-set started to roar to life. Apparently, he had succumbed to the claws of his unconscious-mode when working late, he gathered as he gazed outside his window and measured the shadows around the buildings, processing and comparing information with his perpetual internal clock. It was way past 3 pm; 3:36 pm, to be exact. Why had he slept so much?
Sylar untangled his long limbs from each other and on wobbly legs raised from the chair. The muscles of his lower back stirred painfully, making him arch straight until some of them popped freely. Oh yeah, that definitely felt good. He smiled in pure bliss, the cramped flesh stretching and re-accommodating into its natural form in the expanse of seconds. Yes, thanks to Claire's regeneration, he would never have to worry about a contracture back.
He looked at the computer again. Noticing the typically bumper-stickers attached to it, he all but sneered; he would never stain his own device with such maniacal and childish shit. At least... it wasn't his own laptop. Like droplets of mercury splashed, suddenly, it all rushed back in into a cohesive manner. Chandra's book. Being caught outside Claire's window. Going to Peter's. Micah.
His hands tightened into fists at his sides until he could feel the edge of his unkempt nails bite into the tender flesh. He glared at the screen.
Ian Middle's personal computer.
Never a man to leave anything to chance, it had not been hard for Sylar to find the place and snatch the device that had been so foolishly left behind in the darkness of the blogger's house. It appeared that Ian's disappearance had been placed by the authorities alongside the large list of missing specials, his case file left forgotten under folder after folder of a collecting-dust-pile in some archiving room. Generally, they were specials who became tired of some seemingly annoying or mad looks – personally, Sylar didn't notice the difference between those as everyone directed too many of them at him for him to really give a fuck - and dropped their life in favor or starting anew in some other state; or country, if they were in that mood.
He knew about those people – everyone did - and in the forefront of his mind, he called them the cowards because they couldn't face society with a straight face; yet in the back, he resented them for that and thus far he sometimes envied them because he wouldn't let himself do the same. Still, if Sylar recalled correctly, Ian Middle had not been a coward. He had struggled up until his last breath. His fingers shake a little as one long digit slides over the dark grey keyboard feebly.
Blackness. His own skin ruffling over the keyboard. Unblinking black eyes dug holes in it as his hands trembled with temptation. Hours passed by….
He closed his eyes more tightly and went deeper.
A bright lamp lit round fingers that pushed buttons rapidly, only to draw back soon again. Black eyes skimmed the words carefully, a smirk crossing thin lips as the letters were erased and re-entered into the document without the help of a mechanical command.
Wireless interception and transmission; Micah had said that that was the ability of Ian Middle.
There was a pause in his movements. He stilled completely as a familiar voice reached his ears; the eyes of Ian's narrowed into slits. He was too slow, however, as a hand wrapped in black gloves covered his mouth. The gasp elicited was drowned in the material as Ian struggled, falling backwards and colliding with the harsh chest behind him. A deep, rich voice whispered in his ear: "You are wrong; we're not the same." Ian's hands raised; his movements were ungainly and sluggish as he fought against the restraints, only to feel a needle plunge into the side of his neck swiftly. With the last of his lucidity, he pushed a mental command into the realm of binary code.
"221 shadowed man."
Everything went dark.
Sylar staggered back a couple of steps, the connection broken. Reality came crashing down on him as he gazed around the blank walls of his room again. Panting, he went to his bathroom, hastily wrenching open the curtain and revealing his shower stall behind. With a mental tug, the faucets turned on, clear water falling directly onto the tiled floor. He did quick work with his clothes, yanking the material off his body in a rushed manner and discarding the garments in a crumbled form over the floor. He stepped underneath the shower-head, exhaling a sigh of contentment as the warm caress of the hot liquid enveloped his body like a blanket. The newly-founded lightheaded feeling dissolved in the fluid as his forehead leaned against the wall.
Otherwise silent, the noise of falling water was all that could be heard as he stared at the white tiled partition, a dazed expression upon him as he was deep in thought. Clairsentience was a useful and quite insightful tool of an ability to have but sometimes it left out bits and pieces of sensations that fogged up his mind for a tad longer before clearing.
Ian Middle had been scared - terror had raced through his veins - but that was an understatement; who wouldn't be if a stranger broke uninvited into the solicitude of their home? However, it wasn't all that Sylar felt; a flash of recognition slipped through.
The victim knew his assailant. And this was what kept his mind reeling every time he revived the sensatory memory provided by the touch of the computer.
Sylar tried hard to concentrate on the scant details he had gathered from the recollection.
He recognized it as the sound of a voice, a female voice, but it didn't make sense. When Ian pushed backwards, the chest that clashed against his own as he struggled to get free wasn't the soft and curvaceous form of a woman and the deep grunting noise - too low to match the feminine tenor of a lady - that whispered in his ear was of a man.
It didn't make sense.
His forehead hit the tiled wall again. Sylar let out a grunt of frustration. Rivulets of water went cascading down his slick and dark complexion as he fought the urge to disintegrate the damn ceramic material along with the concrete behind. It wouldn't accomplish anything save for a series of stabbing fits if he suddenly appeared naked in Claire's bedroom.
His head was already throbbing.
Peter and Micah had been of great help once he had caught them up on all the details. The break in, his suspicions regarding Claire's own well-being, and the confirmation of those later. He left out, of course, the part about being caught by the little blonde nuisance and being practically shoved out of the apartment by the blonde wearing a barely-reaching-mid-chest top. They didn't need to know that; it was completely irrelevant for the case. And above that, he didn't need Micah turning amused eyes on him again. If he didn't already care so much, the kid would probably be dead by his own hands by now.
In turn, the mismatched duo had filled him in on the information they had been munching around short moments before he made his presence known. When Micah commented about the cryptic message of his fellow akin-to-technology friend, Sylar knew it was an important lead. The shadowed man. It sent his mind into a fit with all the possibilities presented and he had rushed to leave the place, when Peter stopped him.
"If you think you're going to resolve this stunt alone, then you're dead wrong buddy. I didn't help to save the world three times just to sit tight while you do all the hard work."
Sylar had to cut the damn Petrelli some slack: the guy was deep-down buried into his new role as a family man but, even sporting a T-shirt smeared all over in yellowish goo, the former paramedic could be really frightening when something like oh-my-the-world-might-need-saving reached his peripheral sphere and pierced through his thick head. It was something he admired about the empath: the selflessness of his nature. Sylar knew that if the menace had not hit home so closely, he wouldn't involve himself in this. He was reformed and he might take care of those who lived under the same root as he, but the self-centeredness of his true nature stood intact.
He wasn't going to stick his head out for just anybody.
Stubbornness runs deep in the family, Sylar had thought, amused, as Peter didn't back up for an inch when he pointed out that it was going to be risqué. But it turned out that not only Petrelli's are hard to roar away as Micah enlisted himself for the mission too. He said something similar to "just like old times" and if Sylar had not known the kid so well, he might had been concerned about the amount of enthusiasm radiating from the curly-headed boy.
So the three of them came to some sort of agreement after some more sour words were exchanged and an –he would swear till death that it was, however long until then may be - innocent telekinetic pull was administrated that had disconnected Micah for a second or two.
Oh, it was a sight to behold, definitely; how he – the guy who spent most of his days in sheer solitude - had come to this sort of symbiosis with these two guys. He didn't know how but after so many years of working alone, it was certainly a hard change of angle to have a team. It was also very difficult to think straight when Annabel decided that his eyebrows were the best thing in the world to play with.
In the end, it all came down to this.
Sylar would go to Ian's house, toss everything around and see if he found anything significant, while Micah and Peter worked on fishing more information. Well, to be more exact, Peter would try to gain Molly Walker's help using his contact information and friendship with Mohinder, while Micah searched for Noah Bennet's whereabouts. Oh, Sylar was so sure that the company agent had his hands buried deep into this stunt, one way or another; he practically smelled Bennet all over this, although he was yet to know in which form yet.
He left Peter's house only to land in the backyard of another residence hours later, so as to not waste more time. Ian Middle's house wasn't anything to be amazed of, yet not ashamed either. It was plain; simple actually. There were no homely strings attached to it and he briefly wondered why there were no photos or pictures decorating the bare shelves, when his mind turned the tables on himself.
Sylar did not possess frames or pictures either, because save for a few special cases he did not have anyone.
He switched his attention and answered his own musings. Ian Middle had no wife, no sons or daughters, no siblings; the only familiar attachment documented had been his mom but the woman had died years ago, according to the file Micah had sent to him. He was a loner. Just like Gabriel Gray had been.
The work he put into his web site was probably the only source of joy and connection to the outside world he had just like the one of repairing timepieces had been for the ex-serial killer. Sylar decided right then and there that if he wanted to keep digging into this man's life, his personal computer was the best of shots. However he had been too caught up in his own thoughts that he completely forgot the extent of his abilities when he went to snatch the device from the table.
Ian Middle was dead.
Gruesomely tortured in helplessness, full of fright, until a hand was embedded into his chest, leaving a bloody hole behind.
And it wasn't only by one man. He counted at least three figures all clad in black from head to toe.
And to add to matters, Noah, along with his silent friend the Haitian, had been there at some point.
At least he had been right; he knew that Noah had to be involved somehow. However this did nothing to detriment the feeling of sickness that washed over him.
Although he had only caught glimpses and flashes of all the events – not enough to form a coherent sentence - it was enough to make his stomach churn in nausea and dread. If there was already a special dead, who could assure that there were not others too? Who knows how many had fallen under this - what group? 'Team of shadows'?
And now, they had stepped foot into his home. His sanctuary. Touched Claire's windowsill. The same Claire that drove him crazy but that he couldn't allow or watch being hurt.
His mind went into overdrive as he returned to his building, laptop in hand, making sure that the blonde was safely tucked in her bed first, only to then flip open the lid of the device and submerge himself in video after video of advanced genetic humans performing their special gifts for the entire world to see.
A girl in Arizona who could manipulate metallic objects like a human magnet.
An old man who could put people to sleep with a bristle of his breath.
A boy no more than ten years older holding a car thirty times his weight.
It was too much to be shoved in his face; he was more or less an addict in recuperation. The hunger was gnawing at him so he abruptly stopped watching the videos, only to concentrate on the memories of the computer. One by one. He remembered calling Peter to let him know of his progress, but he must have fallen asleep shortly thereafter because he couldn't remember anything else after that.
Now a jumble of thoughts - chaotic ones that chased each other in no apparent logical sense - plagued his convoluted brain. He hated disorder – because he had been in the deep end of chaos once – but even more so when it was in his head. He didn't often have to deal with problems larger than what usually went into resolving puzzles, rearranging events into some sort of semblance, dealing with his tenants – his ability always had an eye for that - but as for right now, he was lost. It may have to do with the fact he was too personally invested in this, his empathic side voiced, messing around with his analytical one. They collided against each other, deafening themselves.
And now… speaking about compromise of interests.
As if on cue, he sensed the rush of adrenaline flowing through someone's veins as his neighbor next door inconspicuously tried to leave her apartment; maybe his empathy wasn't so bad. The faucets turned off with a flick of his wrist. He stayed dead silent as Claire seemed to still her movements - doing a recon of the place, probably - only to, apparently baffled, storm out.
Sylar called a towel into his outstretched hand.
Let the chase begin.
4:38 pm, a park.
Claire squinted her eyes and looked up, bathing her face in the mid-evening sun, smiling at the warm sensation. She loved the hot days like this one. It always made her remember her childhood in Texas, by far the best years of her life. She squeezed the tiny hand within hers and looked down. Every human being deserved a happy childhood and she was more than glad to provide a little of that to Ryan. "So how is your ice cream?" She inquired. People passed by them across the wide path; some running, others in bicycles enthusiastically pedaling away, yet most hand-in-hand, enjoying the beautiful sunny day in Central Park.
Ryan peered up at her. "Good," he garbled out, furrowing his brows at the multi-colored cone in his hand. "Although I don't like the sprinkles all over it," he mumbled in a tone somewhat very far away.
Claire studied him as she took a bite out of her own cone. Though she didn't have to analyze his behavior outside the company, she couldn't avoid feeling concerned. He seemed almost confused over the fact he had confessed. "Why not?"
He shrugged, gazing over at her for a long moment. "I just know that I don't," he finally said dejectedly. "Besides, vanilla is way better," he stated more cheerfully.
Her eyebrow perked up but she refrained herself from commenting on his odd conduct. Maybe it was just a little kid thing or maybe it was the anxiety of being outside his comfort zone. Besides, what kid only likes plain vanilla? She shook her head, amused; only her Ryan. He really stood out from others boys; peculiar. No, special is what he was and the thought made her smile more. "Do you want some of mine?" She offered, holding the creamy dessert out for him to take.
He studied the cone with an intense and thoughtful face and then he looked at her again. "Strawberry is for girls," he declared firmly, as though the sole idea was ridiculous.
Claire chuckled mirthlessly. "That's so not true." She said between giggles. "My dad ate strawberry all the time." She recalled how there was always a popsicle or two that would disappear from the pack she so jealously hid in the freezer and how it was always him who ate them.
Ryan stopped mid-strike and scowled. "Then your dad is weird."
Claire couldn't hold it in any longer. She burst out laughing again, freer than she had done in a long time. The people sauntering around them gave her their attention as they saw the blonde with the little kid shaking deeply with hearty laughter. "My dad is fine, thank you very much," she managed to said, trying to sound serious but it died in her throat.
Ryan kept on walking without looking at her and Claire stopped laughing; she noticed the change of demeanor in the boy immediately. Mood suddenly sullen, he avoided her probing gaze and she internally slapped herself as she caught her slip. The mention of the word 'dad' or any other parent-related word always made the boy intensely saddened. It was a sour theme; he was an orphan after all and his parents had died in tragic circumstances only a few years ago. Hardly enough time to mourn and forget. Claire smiled sadly. She could relate with him in that aspect, too. She caught up with him and squeezed his tiny hand as she slipped it into her own. Ryan didn't protest.
"Do you have any friends?" He asked all of the sudden.
Claire left her inner musings relating parents as she gazed ahead, a pensive look drawing on her face as she mulled that over carefully. "Well, I have Micah… Uncle Peter and his wife, Emma." She frowned as she gazed around, thinking more. "Now, I guess I have Rose and-" She back-pedaled, caught in the moment. Her eyes lowered to her devoid-of-Ryan's-fingers hand, her strawberry cone flying to her mouth as she reacted quickly. She was so not adding anybody else to that list.
Ryan of course, as a perceptive child and more importantly an owner of a healthy pair of eyes, looked up at her with a questioning face. "And who?"
Frozen brain anyone? Claire ate her cone to keep her mouth occupied, wandering green orbs never settling in any place. When she was finished, Ryan still patiently watching her for a response, she stared apologetically at the kid. "Nobody, just Rose I guess."
The brownish haired boy maintained his eyes on her a little while longer and then slouched his shoulders, the subject dropped for the moment. He archived it for latter exploration. Taking licks out of his ice cream, they walked alongside silent for a couple of minutes. "Do you have a boyfriend?" He suddenly questioned with obvious interest in his voice.
Claire gazed down at him, flustered. "Ryan!" She reproached. "What's up with all the questions?"
He opened his eyes wide. "In the company you're always asking me questions," he smiled innocently. "I thought that outside of it, it was my turn."
Claire's attitude deflated. "Oh, well, no I don't," she finally said as they continued their path down and through the sunny park.
Another silent moment passed. "I'm going to find you one so then I can have a mommy and a daddy again," he said with resolution and grinned. He dragged her by the hand suddenly, excited by something as Claire was left speechless and stunned once again. Did I heard right? Her bewildered state was short-lived, however, as Ryan abruptly stopped and let go of her hand. She reacted hastily, her fingers searching for his tiny ones again as to not lose him. "Hey Claire, look!" He was pointing at something she couldn't see due of some leafy trees blocking her view; she moved to step around them. "A carnival!" He announced loudly. "Can we go?" eagerness hopeful eyes laced into the question.
Dread built up within her stomach and travelled onward as her eyes slowly –almost painfully- skimmed up in harrowing anticipation.
Perched proudly above them, the sigh announced 'Sullivan Bros Carnival'.
Five years before….
She took a deep breath, fresh clean air running all the way down to her renewed lungs, organs that had been punctured too many times for her to truly know. Unsavory air escaped her lips with apprehension, rippling with its sizzling manner into the semi-quiet atmosphere that was established around her. The infusion of fresh oxygen, however, awakened a sensation like sandpaper onto her vocal cords that had been treacherously eating at her nerves for the past few minutes. Her throat was dry and not just because she had yet to taste anything resembling water in hours.
She swallowed hard.
Claire was sure some of the ears surrounding her perked up at the resoundingly loud sound, notifying their obscure owners to her wrecked state and rejoicing in her discomfort. She writhed in place as a chill ran the length of her spine. She tried to look forward, past the deleterious silent congregation forming a semi-circle around her, moving her eyes upward until they were placed upon the two figures standing wide apart from the rest of them, illuminated by the faint light provided by the moon behind them.
They were talking enthusiastically, their words chased just as fast by their own breaths.
Peter was shaking his head, his black hair almost gray in the ethereal luminescence of the night, his face contorted into a frown. His hands trembled with what she could only guess was denial and an added ting of tiredness. She took her eyes away from them. They were talking about what to do now. She had heard some words before the two decided they didn't need to be judged by her reproaching gaze. Peter had subtly suggested the idea of going back in time, to interrupt her last attempt at juvenile rebellion and avoid the imminent consequences. Still unsure of the impact, he thought it was better to be safer now than to lament over arguably unknown repercussions later. But if the thin line crested over his mouth and the hard set of his brow was any indication, Hiro was not willing to do the work of a destiny-agent this time around.
She did not blame them - not Hiro, nor Peter - even when a wave of annoyance attempted to ripple through her. She bit on it. Claire knew they were both trying to do what they knew to be best, what they preached to be the right thing. She had also tried what she believed to be right choice at the time. Tired of wallowing in self-pity over the fact that she could never have a normal life, she simply sought it out, the consequences be dammed.
Granted, she was now drenching herself in said consequences; the very first ones, she thought as her eyes again settled on the faces of some of the individuals who rattled and shifted on their feet about her. Edgar was sitting on a rock and if he was not for the job of throwing a knife at her out of spite, he was complying at least in sending daggers with his gaze alone.
"You betrayed us, Claire," he mumbled in a low voice.
Claire's foot moved about, the uneven ground offering very little support. She faintly stumbled back when she stepped on a rock. "No," she futilely argued back, her voice trembling a little. Deep down, she knew there were some streaks of truth in his statement. However, she steeled her countenance, her chin barely lifting and her hands tightening as her sides. "I did what needed to be done."
"You did exactly what Samuel wanted it," Ian pointed out from her right side, crouched. His face tilted, shoulders slouched as he looked at her dejectedly.
The corner of her mouth lifted up in a self-deprecating manner. Yes, it had not been the best way to go about it – she could at least admit that - but at the moment there weren't many options. Claire sighed frustratingly. "Samuel wanted a holocaust," she declared firmly, gazing at the hard edges of the faces staring at her with obvious judgment. "He wanted to kill all of you, to split open the earth and drag all of you into it." Her tone was low and blazing with anger as she remembered Samuel's original scheme. "I'm trying to place us above," she labeled with a well-placed tilt up of her chin. The frustration in the pit of her stomach mounted as she only saw appalled faces around. "We can be in the light, we can be happy," she intoned more fervently.
Edgar lifted himself up from his seating position. "You're too young Claire," he said dismissively. "You don't know how the world works."
Claire fought the urge to roll her eyes. His condescending tone rivaled her dad's. "I may be young and I may not know some things," she said slowly; "but I had learned a few, like here-" She pointed at the rocky ground below that the carnies were sharing with her. "-here I learned to trust-" She smiled faintly with the good memories of her brief time in the carnival. "-to hope and to share," she added in a soft voice. "We can share our hopes, open our arms to the world and in turn we can live a normal life."
Edgar's laugh was deafening and bitter; it tore something apart in Claire. "Only bad things have been placed upon us since we opened our arms." His somber tone was matched with his even somber look. "Only pain and death," he murmured. Claire recognized the flicker of emotion in his eyes before it faded quickly: it was sorrow. "Lydia died because of it, Joseph too," he said louder, addressing the others as well. There was a pause as some of the eyes lowered to the ground in remembrance. Edgar laid his gaze on her again. "How many more deaths, Claire?" He asked bluntly. "How many before you and the others finally understand that this is what happens when you trust people? You get hurt." She felt her insides twist uncomfortably. Edgar smiled sardonically. "Now you may walk away intact but we-" he signaled at the carnies. She risked a glance around; they looked even more miserable with in the moonlight on their dirty faces and showcasing their tired demeanor. "-we don't have that luxury."
Her head slumped downward. Closing her eyes a second, she took in a deep breath, trying to muster a response. "Samuel had ulterior motives," she said after a moment, jaw set with determination, a hint of desperation showing through. "I don't," she declared firmly. It was important for them to understand, for her to know that they understood. "I won't let anything bad happen to any of you."
Eli stepped out, his arms crossed. "I'm sorry Claire, but you're just a girl. Resistant to radiation, yes, but ultimately just a girl." He gave her an incredulous glare. "How can you protect our family when from what I gathered, you can't even protect yourself?" He raised an eyebrow.
Claire was seething with rage and hurt, about to retort, when Edgar stopped her.
"Just go, leave us alone and don't ever come back," he requested of her dejectedly, a meaningful look on his unshaven face. "We're happy as we were." He stared at her for a second more and then he turned to leave. The carnies gave her one last look, some of them scowling at her in obvious distaste and hatred. Eli smirked and tilted his head in mock salute as they left their places around her and followed their new leader by default wordlessly.
She felt hot tears swell in her eyes as she stood there, in the peak of the night, dolefully staring at the rough ground. She thought they were going to understand. Why could nobody understand her? A lone tear escaped her and landed by her feet. She felt the warmth of solid flesh making contact with her skin and it giving her a squeeze on the shoulder. Claire dried the dampness on her face with the palms of her hands before turning around.
Peter gave her a lopsided smile. It was dark and she doubted he could see her swollen eyes; within a minute, they would correct themselves anyway, never to leaving a physical mark. "Is everything okay?" He asked.
"Yes." She forced her lips to smile a little even when all she wanted to do was curl up and disappear into the center of the earth. "Just let's go of here."
Claire winced as the painful memories rolled around in her head; she found her wanted normalcy –and was living it, at the cost of the love and respect of many people, people she had hurt. Her heart constricted in her rib cage. The carnies were the first ones in a long list of victims. My victims. In their eyes she had been the selfish girl who took the leap. Her continued hard work in the company was the only thing that could take her mind of those memories and strangely enough as of lately her time in Sylar's –albeit -forced company had banned her line of thinking leading to them.
"Claire?" She left her tribulations behind as she gazed away from the colorful gypsy sign above. Ryan was squinting his eyes at her, tugging at her hand.
Claire breathed in reading herself. Now how could she phrase this without being too much of a bad person - or just a plain bitch? "I don't know Ryan, what about the movie theater? I thought you wanted to go there" She said, trying to not sound very desperate – which was huge work, because she kind of was. He stared blankly at her, not even slightly moved by the suggestion; she changed tactics, a huge smile broke over her face. "A toyshop? I'm going to buy you whatever you want," she bribed.
A flicker of excitements ruffled through his face, giving her the slightest of hope, before it died, only to be replaced by what she could recognize as the saddest of puppy dog eyes ever witnessed in history. "But I've never been on a carnival before; pretty please?"
Claire weighted her options carefully. Could she say no to this adorable boy and get away with it?
…But she was banned from the carnival.
Oh I'm so screwed.
"Okay," she conceded tersely. "But only for a short moment." The kid nodded with all the eagerness he could gather in his little body and trotted inside the gypsy place, dragging her behind him.
She could smell trouble all over this.
4:39 pm 'somewhere' in Central Park.
The bark of the tree offered a nice support for his tired feet as he leaned against it with one arm crossed across his torso. His eyes slid downward, away from his target, to rest below, staring at the vividly green-colored grass. Sylar snorted. An infusion of memories came to the front of his mind.
There was something to say about karma or whatever 'mystical power' that held the reigns of this damned world; it was freaking damn disturbing how it liked to play with him because somehow, one way or another, no matter the circumstances revolving around his trip, he always ended up in a park.
Every. Damn. Time.
Just at this particular moment, he was beneath the flourishing crown of an 'Ulmus Americana' or most commonly known as an American Elm; a tree that has largely extended in population throughout all of Central Park. Oh, he knew all about parks; he had catalogued trees under number of specimen and specie when he had been a man of the elements during his hobo phase. At least Sylar had better conditions now - freshly showered, clad in his signature dark clean clothes and enjoying the frostiness of sweet cream silkily dancing around his tongue and palate.
God, how he loved ice cream. Vanilla flavor only; no other addictions, just the original one.
However, not only his appearance and wealthy wallet had changed this time he found himself back in a park. His motivations to be here were also different. At first, he had thought that Claire was leaving the apartment building out of spite, just to rebel against him – he knew that she could do it if wanted, she was an independent person - but in any of the vast and thoroughly plausible possibilities he had foreshadowed, he hadn't envisioned her on babysitting duty. And yet, that was what she seemed to be doing.
Sylar had followed closely behind her; it was one of the traits he had mastered years ago - the furtiveness, the predatory instinct. Some may say he was a stalker at heart but he didn't like the term - it sounded so dull, so derogatory. He considered himself an artist, capable of blending in with the environment around him and synchronizing his thoughts with those of his goal, systematically predicting the movements beforehand.
Claire, however – though apparently distracted if he correctly recalled her lost-in-thought appearance while he chased after her – had the capacity to confuse him sometimes. It was one of the reasons why he had enjoyed their games of cat and mouse back in the day when he was a power hungry killer; it was infinitely better when there was a challenge in the chase.
Just as soon as he thought that she was entering the Company's building in search of a misplaced file or some work-related paper, the blonde former-cheerleader exited the building hand in hand with a boy no more than seven years old.
Maybe they were out of nannies in the institution? Whatever the reason, Sylar trailed behind them like he was their shadow and ended up yet once more in Central Park.
He gazed ahead, resurfacing from his ponderings just in time to be blinded. It was certainly a sight to behold: Claire's lush, blonde hair shone with intensity under the natural light of the sun, her innately tanned tone contrasting brightly with the whiteness of her teeth as she laughed with gusto at something the boy had said. People all around them stared back. Women scowled in what he could easily guess were thinly veiled jealousy while men stared with lust filled eyes, inappropriately gawking at the blonde-haired beauty. An abrupt possessiveness clutched at Sylar's heart as his eyes darkened dangerously; if he could just disintegrate them all, he would be a happy man.
Oh wait, he could. Unfortunately, he wouldn't do it because he had long passed the time of succumbing to his homicidal tendencies. He was good now, he had to remind himself, even when he still gave a telekinetic shove to a guy who was staring a moment too long.
Hey, I'm not a saint.
"Dude, do you have a spare coin?" A grumpy voice sounded at his right side. Sylar turned quickly, being startled out of his musings; he had not been aware of the man approaching until he spoke. His eyes travelled the length of the strange figure, drinking in his grungy appearance and unkempt and ragged clothes. A wave of pity washed over him as he took sympathy on the obviously homeless man; maybe he had lost sight of all life and purpose like he himself had done five years ago.
The destitute guy stared at him back with a look full of searching curiosity. "Oh, I know you!" He announced slowly, dragging the words through his yellowing teeth, a smirk of triumph over his grimy face. "You were that guy, the one who offered me the mat that day when the shelter was so full," the hobo recalled wistfully. "I never forget the face of someone who has lent me a hand." He extended said extremity from his body for Sylar to shake. "I never got to say thank you, man, my back was really hurting."
He took the hand awkwardly. "Umh…you're welcome," he managed to say; recalling that bad day shallowly. He would never get used to people's gratitude towards him.
The man nodded, taking a package from one of his pockets and proceeding to light a cigarette. "But what did you do, man?" The grimy guy questioned with a tilt of his head. "You're looking good." He inspected Sylar's nice, clean outfit and more shaven face.
The watchmaker squirmed uncomfortably under the scrutiny of the other man's gaze. "Nothing impressive, just found a job," he answered vaguely, never one to trust a stranger with any information regarding his life, he regarded him with an icy expression.
"Oh, I heard there were a bunch of guys from the shelter that found a job at the local bar, they really are doing good money" he said through a puff of smoke. "I would do it but look at me; I'm not as good as twenty years ago." He chuckled and coughed out some more rancid smoke. "You however-" He pointed at the tall man once the coughing stopped. "-you seem to have the right material for a stripper." The hobo gave him an appraising look. "Maybe a little on the thin side, but-" He shrugged clumsily. "-what the hell, women seem to like it exotic nowadays."
This conversation was all kinds of disturbing, even for a fellow so-called creeper like Sylar. His eyebrows furrowed on their own accord as he struggled to find the right words. "I'm not a stripper," he stated with certain distaste in his voice, a large part of it representing how astounded he was by this assumption. He couldn't picture himself doing so lewdly act never. This was probably the most awkward conversation of his life, by far. "I'm a watchmaker." Never had he had been so relieved to utter those words.
The man stared at him for a few seconds as if not believing his explanation and then laughed. "Oh, my bad." He casually took another drag of his cigarette. "So, do you have a coin?"
Sylar rolled his eyes, now completely wound up. In the movement, he noticed something: Claire and the boy were not in his line of sight anymore. Shit. More than ready to leave the company of the stranger in favor of flying from the scene, Sylar took some rocks from the ground below. He took hold of the free hand of the homeless man and placed the rocks, along with his ice-cream cone, there in hurried motions.
"Keep the change," he uttered in a breath, leaving his place under the tree to chase down the ex-cheerleader.
"Weird guy," the hobo said to himself. "But incredibly kind," he whispered as he opened his hand to find golden nuggets and a solid gold ice cream cone resting over his open palm. A huge grin spread over his features and the cigarette fell from his mouth.
4:46 pm Location unknown.
Claire tried to be subtle about it; she really, really did. However, it was a difficult task to accomplish because every place she looked was convoluted with past memories; she couldn't stop herself from reliving some of those with a kind of forlorn expression. This simple yet stunning place held so much meaning to her, so many 'pauses' full of significance rested here. The booth where she had learned that telekinesis wasn't just a weapon and could be used to make people happy; the tent of the family of fire breathers always together smiling at each other, making her remember of Meredith; even Ian had an act as she saw a banner with him on it proclaiming to be 'Father Nature'.
Unbeknownst to Claire, her lips curved skyward and a look of wonder seeped in over her features. Seeing all this, smelling the popcorn freshly made, hearing the laugh of the children running pass her, she once again questioned herself on what would have been of her life if she had been allowed to live among them. If they could have embraced her as she embraced them when she first put a foot here?
Ryan was pretty distracted too, his eyes savoring the movement, the flickering lights. There were children in here - some of them spiting fire from their mouths - revealing all kind of pretty colors in the tepid evening. His hand tingled and for the first time in a long time, he itched to move something with his mind without the request of an adult in a white coat lab. He laced his fingers more securely around that of his guardian. Face bright with delight and exhilaration, his hazel eyes shifted, connecting with the – equally as gleaming - greenish orbs of Claire's before breaking contact with them after a still second when he turned and looked ahead. "Oh look, they have a Ferris wheel!" He pointed a petite arm towards it, while swinging their interlaced hands. "I wanna go, can I go?"
And just like that, Claire was reminded why she shouldn't be here. The hopeful expression over Ryan's face didn't go unnoticed; in fact, Claire had to duck her head to hide her panicked expression at it. She munched her lower lip as she surveyed the big structure. The symbol of her so-called treason. Oh my, even the Ferris wheel is the same."I don't want to go," she mumbled defectively, not daring to see the glumness in the boy's face. Truth was she had had her fill of that Ferris wheel and any others to last her a lifetime.
Ryan didn't look entirely crestfallen, though but he did adopt a look of concern himself. "Are you afraid?" He asked, tilting his face to the side.
Claire grimaced. "Kind of," she answered honestly, there was no point in hiding it. "But you can go if you want," she said while gazing at the kid with a tight smile. After all, she wasn't here to doom the kid's hopes.
He took that as a permission to promptly sprint forward. Claire followed him, tucking her hair more over her face, trying to conceal her features with it. The point was to not let any one of the carnies recognize her. Gosh, why didn't I let it grow longer? The length hardly worked as the curtain she had hoped. When she reached the poles-full-of-lights structure, she noticed that the man running it was dark skinned and tall with a profuse beard. She didn't remembered him from before so she assumed he was a new acquisition to the carnival. Thank god. So far, she had not seen anyone familiar.
Ryan was already seated and secured in the booth, a kid a few years bigger with black hair and a boisterous attitude was speaking to him while the younger listened intently with big hazel eyes. Claire relaxed a little at the sight. Ryan was curious about everything and everyone, it was just part of who he was. She approached the man sitting on a stool in front of what she could guess was the main control and planted her feet. "Is the ride safe?" She intoned, a twinge of concern shining through.
The man raised his head and directed his eyes from the panel's control to the petite blonde woman in front of him. He gave her a polite smile, used to that kind of question. "Don't worry madam, your son is safe."
Claire stilled. My son? She pursued her lips for a moment but in the end she didn't try to correct the man. It was easier if he thought that than try to explain to him the true nature of her relationship with Ryan. No, he is just my assignment. She clicked her tongue. "Right. How long is?" She inquired again, angling her head towards the colorful wheel.
"Well it's three rides but we stop a couple of minutes between them so-" He calculated with his fingers. "-about ten minutes, I believe," he offered with a small shrug.
"Okay, thank you," she curtly replied and twirled around, approaching the boy. She bent down to his level, placing her purse on her knees, and she tucked some loose hairs away from his cherubic face. "Ryan, don't go anywhere when the ride ends," she said evenly. If so many believe that she was his mother then maybe she could act like one, although it was nothing but an illusion.
His bright eyes shone with warm affection and his feet kept swinging against his seat. Claire smiled; it was so endearing to see him so happy. "I won't. Are you going to stay here?" Ryan said.
"I.…" Well, she hadn't thought of that. If she would had been in any other place, she would probably take the time to explore everything around, but the thing was that she kind of knew the carnival and well, she was trying to hide her face from privy eyes. She glanced around, searching for a darkened spot to stay concealed in the shadows when her eyes caught sight of something outstanding; more accurately, someone. She couldn't quite see his face completely but something tugged at her heart, she knew those broad shoulders and dark completion. "Son of a bitch," she mumbled, flabbergasted, her temper rising up as the color rose in her checks.
Claire's head snapped around. "Nothing" She faltered, trying to smile. Real moms don't swear in front of their kids, Claire. "Have fun," she stood up trying to placate the rage inside, at least for now.
"Where are you going?" Ryan asked over the sounds of the starting ride.
Claire grinned easing the fears of her kid. "To the House of Mirrors," she answered sweetly, inadvertently squeezing the thin leather strap of her purse.
4:48 pm, Location unknown.
It turned out that Sylar didn't have to search much to find Claire.
As soon as he heard the familiar echoing sounds, his head snapped up in bewilderment just in time to see the blonde being practically dragged inside by the kid to a place he wasn't expecting to see.
What were the odds? Of all places, the old carnival just had to be there, standing proudly again in Central Park like it had so many years before.
He shook his head and let them in, waiting outside for a bit in an effort to put some distance between them before trespassing underneath the shapeless sign above as well. He briefly wondered if the piece of metal was the same one that he had touched all those years ago, when everything seemed just so shinny and new to him. Seeing the worm out edges of the banner, he thought that like himself this thing held the same essence, the same array of memories, but it had suffered the decay of time too. He glanced around and noticed that no one was paying attention to him so he shifted the features of his face. Shapeshifting was a useful gift but extremely painful for him, so he decided that a change of partial visage would be enough.
Prickling memories came creeping back to the forefront of his mind. In the past, every time he had visited the carnival he had been so… lost.
Firstly, when he had been only a blank slate of what he used to be, fighting to get his bearings again. Then it was when he was just trying to cause mayhem because these people had offered him something but he didn't know exactly what to do with it, so of course he had to try and obliterate it, only to be swept off his feet by a relentless truth at the same time. And finally when he was looking for a certain someone's acceptance, only to once again be thrown out of loop in despair and uncertainty. This place was like a juncture in his path, forcing him to always take an influential turn. A witness of his road to redemption. He moved his feet again, reconnecting with the earthly of his bearings, leaving his thoughts behind. Turning around, he found the blonde quite rapidly – she was always easy to spot - talking to the boy… crouched close to the Ferris wheel.
Something tugged at the strings of his heart at the scene. Seeing her in that exact spot, he could almost picture that night with utter details.
That detrimental moment in the lives of many.
He remembered his excitement as he told Peter what he had felt when saving Emma -a spreading sensation, a feeling of accomplish - to put it into simpler words it felt right. Saving someone felt right. Then Peter stopped him, tilted his head in sheer puzzlement and pointed with his gaze ahead and upward. "What the hell does she think she's doing? She's going to change everything." Sylar followed his line of sight and when his eyes rested upon the figure of the woman that was forever imprinted in his retinas, his heart had skipped a beat. He understood right there and then, what was crossing through her mind when determination flashed pass her and he felt an arising sense of pride because of it. "That's right, it's a brave new world."
Now, at this current moment Claire turned. Oh shit. Sylar ducked his head in the darkness so quickly that he almost lost his footing. A straw on the dirty ground below suddenly became utterly interesting as he tried to act inconspicuous. He passed a hand over his face in annoyance; how could he act so newbie in this? He was far from being an amateur. His hand stopped at his nose, noticing the loss of flesh on it. Since when my nose is smaller? He frowned and almost slapped himself, chastising himself. Right, I'm not using my face. He recalled, feeling every bit the amateur and stupid that he had forgotten he was acting. It had to be the eerie lights from the carnival, he decided; they were doing wonders with his sharp sense of cunningness.
He faced the Ferris wheel again, only to find that Claire wasn't there. The ex-serial killer panicked for a short moment until his wandering eyes lay on the short blonde once again. She was walking alongside booths, her movement quick and purposeful, obviously with a destination in mind. Sylar gazed to the boy once more, he was grinning from ear to ear as the ride was starting to go up and up. Shrugging one shoulder, he aimed his steps in the direction that Claire was going, always careful to leave a respectable ten foot between them.
The former cheerleader stopped in front of a wide structure and climbed the few steps leading to an entrance. The House of Mirrors announced the sign above. Sylar twisted his foreign features. He didn't have many pretty memories of the place; in fact, a tad bit of apprehension escalated the length of his spine and he shuddered unknowingly. That place was plain creepy. A smidgen of his manliness was spared though and made its way into his mind. What am I doing am I cowering now? He questioned. He, the big bad Boogeyman, the dangerous Sylar, the most powerful man on Earth, was scared of a conjunction of mirrored walls arranged together in a geometrical way?
What the hell.
Sylar slid in without further thinking. Now that he possessed a fake face – and he remembered that it was there this time - he wasn't so scared of Claire noticing him; he was just another dude strolling on by. No problems, no attachments, just him and the creepy mirrors surrounding him for every side, clawing at his skin and dishing out his organs until he had no choice but to look at his image or decay in sorrow. His eyes scanned forward.
Only to be faced by an ensemble of little Claires. Huh?
Sorry for the dreaded cliffhanger!
Now I know I promised sylaire cuteness for next chapter in my last A/N but this is only part one so it still counts…
Please let a review, I love to read your comments guys!