Summary: Indestructible doesn't translate into numbness.
A/N: I have this uncanny ability to go from zero to fan!girl in just about three seconds. Hider's quicker than me, of course, but she's that way with a lot of other aspects of life too. Blame her and pretty new icons for this. Most of the section titles are variations of lyrics from Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon by Blood Brothers. This is my first Heroes fic, so reviews would be loved and cherished.
I. Skull equals noise nest
The first time that she tries to kill herself, it is because the white noise in her head has turned into loud impenetrable static that she can't escape no matter how hard she tries. So she grabs a piece of rope that her daddy gave her for her cowgirl costume when she was ten and ties it into the best noose that she can without researching the topic and alerting her parents or her nosy little brother to her plans.
Claire removes the hanging plant in her room and throws the end of the rope over the now-empty hook, knots it tight and makes sure that she won't be able to touch the ground once her neck is in the grip of the loop. After five minutes of staring at the scene of her soon-to-be-death, she steps up on a chair and brings the rope down around her throat. Tightens the knot until she can hardly breathe and then she kicks the chair out from underneath her, and the feeling of suffocation is one of the most stressful experiences of her life.
She gags, chokes, twitches in an attempt to back out of her suicide. She even goes so far as to push her hands in between her neck and the rope, but all that does is burn her fingers from the pressure and add more strength to the gravity that's trying to pull her down. The opposing force of the rope and the hook and the ceiling keep her hanging there in the vanilla-scented air of her bedroom and she closes her eyes and prays for it to end sooner rather than later.
It reminds her of the summer that she spent at the lake with her family when she was small, no older than six or seven, and she nearly drowned in the lake before her mom saved her from the freezing crystal waters. This time, though, she stops breathing entirely and it all goes black.
When the rope breaks and she falls to the ground, coughing and sputtering with rope burn on her neck, she gasps and tries to hang herself without really hanging at all. Her body forces her grip on the rope to relax when she starts to fall unconscious, though, so she removes the noose and throws it into the closet, disappointed and annoyed with its performance.
She sits on the ground for an hour, staring blankly at the wall and rubbing her throat, tears clogging her eyes so that everything is blurry. Her posters are messes of color on the light blue walls and she feels like she can't really catch her breath because she's panicked.
Crawling to her bureau, she grips the drawer handles to pull herself up and nearly topples with the dresser from the force of her weight. Claire catches her balance at the last moment, though, and stands until she can see herself in the mirror. She removes her hand from her throat and bites her bottom lip, wiping tears from her eyes as rapidly and efficiently as she can so that she can see the effects of what she's just attempted.
The battle scars will draw attention and she needs to know how bad they are before she goes in search of foundation to cover the bruises. But when her eyes lock onto the mirror and she lifts the blonde curls of her hair away from her skin, she sees nothing but white porcelain.
And the static in her head clears to silence, but suddenly she sees nothing but fuzz like the snow that colors the TV when the cable goes out.
II. A locket spins around her neck
Silver lines the areas that should be red and gashed on her neck, and she pulls on the locket at the end of the thin chain like it's her only lifeline in this world. Obviously it isn't, if her past four attempts are any indication, and she sighs as she leans against the locker next to his.
"I need your help," she murmurs. Zach jumps, startled, and she winces when he rips his headphones from his ears and stares at her like he's never seen her before in his life. Something tells her that isn't true, and she subconsciously tugs at her cheerleading skirt with her free hand.
"I don't take payment for assignments," he says automatically. Claire rolls her eyes and rolls the locket around on the chain some more, shaking her head back and forth slowly. Her eyes are sad and she can feel them darkening, feel them showing him all of the conflicting emotions that are leaking out of her skin and into the airwaves as she stands there talking to him and leaning nonchalantly against the row of lockers.
"That's not what I mean," she sighs and puts her hand on his shoulder, keeping the other securely locked around her necklace as she leans in to whisper in his ear. He leans into her as well and she closes her eyes tightly. "I need you to film me killing myself."
Zach jerks backwards, eyes wide, and she takes a step forward and slaps her hand over his mouth before he can speak. "Don't say anything, please," she looks around the half-empty hallway and then stares at him seriously. "And don't ask any questions; just meet me here after school, okay?"
Turning on her heel, she ignores his protests as she rushes off to class to avoid yet another tardy. Her English teacher already has it out for her without her contributing to the problem.
Leaning against his locker, she folds her arms impatiently and lets her head rock back until it hits the ugly dented metal. Claire hisses in pain at the feeling of the contact and reaches up to rub the back of her head, sighing heavily when she finally spots him walking toward her down the hall. He looks resigned, but he's carrying a video camera, and that fact gives her hope.
They spend the afternoon together and she tries twice more with no success, but this time she has proof and a witness that she's something extraordinary, and she decides that she hates the word and the definition that it entails. When she returns home after leaving a burning building with no physical proof whatsoever, she runs upstairs and slams her door and flops down face-first on her bed.
Claire cries her frustrations out in loud sobs that are muffled by her pillow, and she digs her nails into the mattress until her sheets have tiny holes and runs in the material. Hours later, she sits up blankly and picks up the lighter she found in the kitchen last week, flicking it on and off against the skin of her wrist just to feel the sensation of pain.
III. The phantom trail leads way to a muted grave
New York is much too big for comfort, and she dislikes the atmosphere of it to a degree that would make mercury explode from the thermometer if she measured it. She steps out of the airport and looks around warily, the unmistakable smell of a big city filling her nostrils and making her cough. Peter rests his hand on her lower back and she tenses, still unsure of his intentions or why exactly he's so determined to "save" her.
If she's indestructible, then why in the hell does she need saving?
"Come on, subway's this way," he nods down the sidewalk to a set of wrought iron gates surrounding a flight of stairs that descend into what she assumes to be the subway station. Claire scrunches up her nose and adjusts her grip on her back-pack, pulling it up further on her shoulders. He offers her a small smile and she bites her bottom lip but doesn't return the gesture because she's afraid it would be too forced, too sudden, too unexpected. Her muscles might even clench from the new movement.
As they walk down the sidewalk she stays close to him, though keeps a good enough distance that there is no chance of them touching even if he comes to a dead stop for no reason. She keeps her eyes locked forward, set on the sign stating what station they are heading to, and people mostly ignore her as she walks along behind him.
Twenty minutes later, she's sitting on an uncomfortable plastic seat next to her new acquaintance and someone who vaguely smells of McDonald's. Turning to face Peter, she sighs heavily and furrows her brow. "Why did you bring me here?"
"Because that's the only way to get you out of harm's way," he tells her, and his tone chills her to the bone. She grips her back-pack tightly to her and locks her hands around her elbows, trying to fight the discomfort she feels.
"What harm? You saw back home that it's impossible to—" she glances at the guy next to her, who suddenly looks very interested and very confused by what she's saying, and lowers her voice accordingly. "Hurt me," she whispers. "I was dead a few weeks ago and as soon as the branch was pulled out of my head I was awake and trying to figure out how I ended up in the morgue."
He looks at her curiously, somewhat concerned, and she bites her bottom lip. She's used to Zach, who only encourages her to use her so-called gift, and she doesn't think Peter wants her to indulge her power if she doesn't have to. While she's got more lives than a cat or a video game cheat-code, she doesn't want to experience the pain of dying over and over anymore. Cuts still ache and burns still smart, no matter how easy it is to survive fifty-foot falls or self-inflicted hangings.
"Look, all I can tell you is that you're it."
"Yeah," he nods and leans closer to her, whispering the next words in her ear. "If we can save you, we can save the world." Claire tenses at the feeling of his breath washing over her skin and she gnaws on the inside of her cheek, slightly irritated.
"So I'm like some sort of key," she breaks it down and Peter falters, then nods a little.
"Sort of," he agrees. A moment later he turns away from her and she leans back in an attempt to get more comfortable, digging her nails into her skin just to make sure she isn't dreaming up this trip. And part of her wishes it is, simply because if he's right in anything that he says, staying home would've meant death once and for all. No more accidents, no more almost. Just gravestones and tears and silence once and for all.
IV. Oil is only sex paint
Isaac stares at her, though she knows he can't see her because of the white film that's concealing his eyes from her. She watches in rapt fascination as he paints blonde strands of hair and brown-black eyes that look irate and deadly in the smoothness of the oil paints. Claire sits on a stool and rests her chin on her palm, observing the creation of the picture like no one has ever seen before. Everyone makes exclamations over the final products of the artist's work, but no one knows how easily he strokes his brush across the canvas.
She does, now, and it makes her feel special. It probably shouldn't, but it does, and she's alright with latching onto stupid insignificant things if it means she can take her mind off the fact that if she dies then the world ends. According to Nikki and Peter and Hiro and the storyboard forming across the room from where she sits right now, she is the last in a long line of victims who have had their brains removed from their skulls and stolen.
A shiver ricochets down her spine and she averts her eyes from previous paintings to watch this new one in the making. After a moment she glances down at the bulging vein near Isaac's elbow and the accompanying hole that lines the skin on the inside of said joint. She scrunches up her nose and looks at the painting for another moment before sliding off of her stool and heading for the area of the studio that has been made into a makeshift campground for everyone on nights when they can't go home.
Claire spots Peter sitting in a chair near the corner of the room and wanders over to him slowly, observing his silence with curiosity. He notices her when she's standing just about a foot from him and locks eyes with her, sending small volts of electricity through her veins. She tries to think of Zach and the fact that she could be with him right now if it weren't for this hell she's being put through, but Peter's eyes penetrate her skin and she gives up on trying to distract herself.
"Are you okay?" he wonders. His voice is soft, like he's afraid she'll break if he speaks any louder, and she's pissed at him for thinking that. She can't break, he knows that damn well, yet he continues to treat her like a porcelain doll. The cheerleading uniform doesn't cancel out the fact that she can't die, can't even be seriously hurt for that matter, and she lets out a low, guttural sigh that makes his eyes darken.
"I really wish everyone would stop asking me that," she laughs shakily, though there is no humor in the sound and it sounds foreign to her ears. She sits down on the floor next to his chair and he stands, moving the cheap piece of furniture to join her on the ground. Peter watches her curiously and she laughs again before turning to face him. "You know what I wish?"
"That you weren't in the middle of all of this?" he guesses, and he's close. Claire doesn't want to be here but she doesn't want to be anywhere else, really, so she's sort of stuck in limbo. Purgatory. The middle of the end and the center of the beginning.
"Yeah, but … I wish I could have been someone before I became this thing," she explains. He doesn't say anything in response and she tilts forward, resting her head on his shoulder and closing her eyes. "And I wish you didn't look at me like that," she murmurs, though she's not sure if it's to him or herself.
His arm circles her shoulders and she turns her face into his neck, inhaling his scent and letting his lack of pity envelope her while Isaac continues to paint her future on the other side of the too-large room.
V. Like a picture hiding beneath a digital avalanche
The last piece of the puzzle is slid into place and she gasps, horrified at the image before her. Isaac remains oblivious, still whited-out in a heroine-induced haze of paint and prophecy, and tears fill her eyes as he walks away from the makeshift comic without any sense of recognition for her reaction.
Someone rests a hand on her shoulder and she jumps away from them, clawing her hands through her hair. "No, no, no, no, no," she shakes her head back and forth frantically, refusing to believe that her daddy is behind this. He has no idea what she is, who she is. He doesn't know that heroes exist and he certainly isn't going around killing them. Experimenting on them, whatever.
"God," Peter breathes. She turns to face him and lets the tears flow freely, angry with him for bringing her here, angry with all of them for keeping this from her.
"How could you not tell me?" she grinds out the words like stones and her throat aches from the pressure of speaking. A shuddering breath shakes her entire frame and he reaches out for her but she swats at him violently, backing up and tripping over a random piece of artwork that's sitting on the floor.
She stumbles and falls, too shaken to do anything about it once she's sitting on the ground. Peter crouches down in front of her and Claire wraps her arms around her knees with a sharp shake of her head. "Please don't touch me," she whispers.
"Claire, I didn't know—"
"You had to. You had to know that something was wrong when you came to get me. How could I be in danger when I was so far away from all of you? Huh?" She gasps harshly and hiccups, slamming her hand over her mouth to keep the sound from escaping a second time. He stares at her helplessly and she narrows her eyes dangerously.
After a moment, she calmly stands up and leaves her tears to dry anorexic paths on her cheeks. Looking down at him, she shakes her head again and folds her arms across her chest. "And here I thought you were different from the rest of them," she whispers. Peter lowers his gaze to the floor behind her and she brushes past him without another word.
If only she had tried to kill herself before she developed her abilities.