Warnings: Loose mentions of several non-PG things plus the odd swear word.
Spoilers: All just to be safe.
A/N: Another one from me tonight. I have a little prompt list thing going on and this was another one I really felt like doing.
It was a game they were playing. One of them would make a small move forwards and the other was forced back, over and over again until it became habit. She would say something and he'd retreat because he was still with Simone and it would be wrong. He would lay a hand on her arm and she would make a hurried excuse before she panicked and started to babble about nonsense. She would give him one of her dazzling smiles and flick her hair over her shoulder and he would take comfort in a cold shower, reminding himself that she was only eighteen. He would lift one corner of his mouth and make some typically sweet comment and she would hide under her duvet convincing herself that he was just being nice to the teenage girl who he'd been stuck babysitting.
On and on it went. Others began to notice after a while, especially Niki who had an awareness of these things and Micah who, although not really understanding, could watch without being noticed. Matt knew for sure what was going on after he'd heard several mental comments on both their parts which had made him snort into his coffee – it was one of the few moments he could say that he enjoyed his power.
Eventually Simone began to catch on. It was little things such as the way he always rushed to her after a fight to make sure that she was alright even though they all knew she was the only one that definitely would be, and the way she always had his coffee ready exactly the way he liked it in the morning and would engage him in playful banter from the moment he entered the kitchen. She tried to put a stop to it discreetly by wearing sexier underwear at night and playing closer attention to him when they were together but the more she did, the more she noticed that his focus wasn't on her.
It was Isaac that stopped her from saying anything. She'd been more than prepared to chew out the young girl and make it clear where her territory lay and had even gotten as far as cornering her alone in the studio before her ex had entered and told her that they needed to talk. He'd told her to stay out of it. That she couldn't understand. She was still half certain that none of this was true and he could never give her all of himself when it was a part of who he was. Besides, couldn't she see that the two of them needed one another? She had been exceedingly surprised by how lucid Isaac was and how much he had picked up considering his usual drug induced state.
She hadn't wanted to give up but in the end it was the only thing she could do without getting her heart broken.
Even after Simone had stopped going to his bed and holding his hand, the game continued. Nothing changed accept for the ever increasing tension surrounding them. Only they appeared oblivious to its effects whilst everyone else was sitting with baited breath, waiting for the inevitable moment when the delicate wire between them snapped.
It started in a rather dull way, as it would happen, and afterwards the others would fictionalise it until they came up with something much more interesting that they kinda sorta hoped had happened but in all reality were just glad it was all over with.
Claire had been the one to break the cycle. She still hadn't quite come to believe that he could even remotely feel the same way for her as she did for him, especially since she'd spent months convincing herself of the opposite, however, it seemed that it had all just become too much for her. One moment they were drinking coffee and playfully arguing over the merits of rock music verses the latest craze for pop inspired dance tracks, and the next she had leaned over and attached her lips to his. As simple as that.
Of course, after a few minutes he had pulled back and made all the predictable excuses about her age and their situation before stuttering a series of nonsensical words and shutting himself in his room, and she had run to hide her blushing and mortified face underneath her pillow, but what mattered was that the loop was broken. There was now no hiding beneath denial.
Of course, the tension only grew, but everyone could see that it was simply the build up before the storm. It wouldn't be much longer before one, or both, of them decided they couldn't take it anymore. Matt would sit around smirking at them any time they entered a room and seemed to be finding the whole thing entirely entertaining. Niki, who didn't need to be able to hear their thoughts to know exactly how they were both reacting to the situation, would raise and eyebrow knowingly at them both and slip in casual comment that were seemingly innocent but everyone knew they were anything but. Simone ignored the situation as best she could, choosing to spend less time with the group and more in trying to re-establish her old life. Isaac appeared not to know anything was going on but the mischievous glint in his eye, should you choose to look close enough, was a dead giveaway. Hiro made everyone laugh, privately, by baking heart shaped cookies and leaving them all over the apartment and studio space, offering Japanese quotations whenever he spoke with them, seemingly unaware of the uncomfortable looks the two would give him. D. L. considered the entire thing stupid and suggested on more than one occasion that they would just lock the two together in a room to sort out their problems and then everyone could get on with life. Micah would roll his eyes at his father and tell him to stop being such a spoil sport; every good comic book needs its romance story no matter how much most people would wish otherwise. Everyone thought that, for a kid, he had a very strong sense of awareness about what went on. Nathan considered himself above such things.
They were out fighting one day, trying to get rid of another bunch of enemies that seemed determined to take them down, when it had happened. Three of them had cornered Claire and pinned her to a wall. They knew she was invincible and that, short of dismembering her entire body and destroying the individual pieces, they couldn't kill her. But they weren't above trying to hurt her. It was obvious what their intents were as they drawled out disgustingly inappropriate comments and she began to struggle, he replies choked with a determination not to cry. Everyone made a rush to try and get to her but none of them could reach before they had to fight for their own lives.
Except Peter. When he saw, it didn't matter that five guys were currently tying to stick twelve inch blades into his skin; all that mattered was that nobody was laying a hand on Claire. It was incredible. The atmosphere surrounding them seemed to rush with a kinetic energy that sizzled and burnt and yet froze them all to their places. Peter had absorbed some of all of them and in that moment there was nothing more powerful or more terrifying. Nathan actually felt sorry for the bastards attacking the young girl as he watched his brother charge with full force, speed and inhuman strength at them, fists flying, eyes white and skin burning.
They hadn't even managed to get their hands on her bare skin before they were lying face down in their own blood on the sidewalk, a back-to-normal Peter standing over them, knuckles scraped into a bloody mess and jaw still clenched tightly. Their other enemies only watched on for an instance before they took off into the shadows in panic of what would happen next.
What happened next was a tear stained Claire wrapping her arms around his waist from behind and resting her cheek delicately on his tense back. It only took a matter of seconds before all his muscles relaxed and he turned to face her, eyes trained solely on hers. Nobody else existed in that instance except the two of them. The moment was almost painfully private and so, with only brief looks, the others walked silently away, back to the studio to wait for what was to come.
Half an hour later, an exhausted Peter opened the door with Claire asleep in his arms. He gave them all a single nod before taking her into her makeshift bedroom and pulling the covers up over her fatigued body overwhelming gentleness. He sat still for a few moments, watching as her chest fell softly to its own rhythm and then he placed a delicate, lingering kiss on her forehead and leaving her to her rest, pausing at the door one more time to reassure himself that she was alright.
The others watched as he walked back through without noticing them and shut himself behind his own door, his eyes distant behind half drooped lids and his back hunched slightly in overtiredness.
It was only once he was out of sight that they allowed themselves their relieved smiles. The games were over.