The Border - The Fall, Part V

"Long distance run around
Long time waiting to feel the sound
I still remember the dream there
I still remember the time you said goodbye…

Did we really tell lies?
Letting in the sunshine
Did we really count to one hundred…

Cold summer listening
Hot colour melting the anger to stone
I still remember the dream there
I still remember the time you said goodbye
Did we really tell lies?
Did we really count to one hundred…"

Long Distance Runaround - Yes

Crossing frontiers is an American tradition. Ever since the first Europeans crossed the great, wild border of the Atlantic, claiming the untamed wilderness of the new continent as their own, it was a birthright. Manifest Destiny did not exist until America did. For Claire Bennett, this was more than a continuation of a deeply held patriotic belief. It was a flight for survival, the dark side of that proud American tradition of border crossing. So many other refugees had been similarly enchanted, from the prow of overcrowded steamer ships, the backs of unregistered, battered vans, or in small boats that had been knocked around by the punishing sea, all who laid eyes on the gates of the American Dream wept with delight and despair. Tonight, surrounded by fine leather luxury, dazzled by the electric glory of Manhattan at night from a limousine window, a cheerleader from Texas fell under the thrall of the most heartbreaking and alluring city in the world.

It was nearly midnight when they'd arrived at Peter's Lower East Side apartment, and Claire stared wide-eyed at the activity on the street. Downtown Odessa would have been a graveyard at this hour, but cars still roared down the avenue, people walked around and stores were open. Reaching for Peter's sleeve, Claire connected with Simone's instead, and pulled her hand away, as if the older woman's expensive dress burned her hand. Simone had smiled indulgently, but Claire could see that she had been right to pull her hand back. Simone was no friend. Simone reminded Claire of the breeding bitch that her mother had brought over for Mr. Muggles one time, a snappy little Pomeranian with excellent conformation and a vicious temper. That was before the abilities had appeared, and Claire had nursed a nasty bite, thanks to the sassy little dog. Simone looked like she could do more harm than just bite, and Claire didn't want to find out what that could be.

"Well, here we are." Nathan said, as they walked into Peter's apartment. It was small, Claire thought, but it reminded her of an apartment from a movie, old and full of character. She wanted to peek in every cabinet, open every closet to look for hidden doors and wondered what was concealed under the wide, dark wood floors.

"You can take my room for tonight, Claire." Peter said, pointing down a narrow hallway. "It's the last door on the right." His face, pale from exhaustion and stress, was solemn. Dark eyes flicked toward Simone and then the hallway again. "The bathroom is right next to it. Make yourself at home."

"Okay." She shouldered her backpack, taking the hint that she should leave. With a quick glance behind her, Claire walked down the hall, feeling more like Alice in Wonderland than Tinkerbell. Hand on the doorknob, Claire heard her name and turned. Simone was speaking in shrill undertones, and although Claire couldn't see Peter, she knew he was only tolerating this outburst. Even Nathan looked uncomfortable, and Claire tried to spare the older man a bit of sympathy. She turned the doorknob and went into Peter's room. It was dark, and Claire instantly smelled Peter as clearly as if he himself were standing beside her. Her stomach flipped. She'd been in Zach's room, and her brother's room, but this was different. She felt for the lightswitch on the wall and found it, turning the ceiling light on. The room itself was almost bare, nursing school textbooks still piled on a small desk near the window. The bed, a full sized one like Claire had left behind, was neatly and simply made and Claire stopped herself from falling on it and giggling, giddy from being this close to where Peter slept and studied. This was her home, at least for now, and that kind of silliness might make things awkward.

A small, sharp knock on the door made her turn around. Peter had pushed the door open a bit and was looking at her. "Everything okay? There are towels in bathroom closet. If you're hungry, I have cereal, I think, but I can't vouch for the milk…I guess I'll have to go to the store tomorrow."

"Oh." Claire dropped her backpack on the bed. "I'm fine. Did Simone leave?"

Peter pushed the door open all the way and leaned against the doorframe. "Yeah. Nathan, too." He swallowed and looking away, walked to the bed to take one of the pillows and the grey blanket that had been folded at the foot of the bed. "I'll just go…you're probably tired..."

"How does anyone sleep?" Claire asked, and Peter looked at her strangely. "I mean, with so many people still awake and being so busy…"

"Oh." Peter laughed. "Odessa isn't exactly a big nightspot, huh? Everyone in before dark and streets empty by ten?"

Claire grinned. "Crickets, raccoons and armadillos like it fine, though."

Peter nodded and walked to the desk, rummaging until he found what he was looking for, a portable cd player and a disc in a clear, square case. "Here. Forest night sounds. I used it when I was studying for the RN Boards. Might help you sleep."

He went to the bureau and pulled out a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt, and Claire could see his pale face flush a little with color. "I guess you'll need a place to put your stuff, too. Tomorrow, I'll clear out a drawer or two, and there's room in the closet for anything you might want to hang up."

"Thanks." Claire nodded, looking at her overstuffed backpack. "I don't know how much I could have crammed in there. One drawer might be enough."

"Nathan said he's going to talk to Heidi about you borrowing some of her things." Peter told her. "You'll like Heidi. She's Nathan's exact opposite. Nice, friendly, she even smiles." He smiled himself at that. "And, she won't call you Tinkerbell if you don't want her to."

Claire rolled her eyes. "It's just so silly. We're nothing like Peter Pan and Tinkerbell."

"I know." Peter nodded, clutching his armful of bed things. He looked at her for a long minute thoughtfully and then grinned. "You don't have wings."

"Shut up!" Claire laughed, and Peter laughed, too, walking out of the room. "Night, Peter." She called out, almost afraid to let him leave, scared to be alone in this strange room in this new city.

"Night, Claire..." Peter turned and smiled at her reassuringly. "It's all going to be okay."

"I know." She nodded a little and waved. "Night. And thanks, for everything." She added lamely, gesturing with the cd player.

"You're welcome. If you need anything, I'm right in the living room." Peter turned and walked away, pulling the bedroom door closed behind him. Claire darted to the door, and without thinking, turned the skeleton key in the lock, bolting the door. Her heart was racing and her palms sweaty. She rested her face against the door and

"Driver, you've made a mistake, this isn't my address.." Simone snapped, wiping her eyes. "We never crossed Sixth Avenue…I live on the West Side."

"Look, lady, I don't make decisions. You told me this address...okay?" The cab driver turned to look at Simone. "You either give me a new address or get out here."

Simone peered out the window, staring at Issac's door. Instinct had led her here, and given how thinking things through had made life lately, Simone sighed, instinct might be the way to go. She paid the cab driver and got out. Three men were walking down the street, two of them talking in rapid Japanese, while the third, taller than his companions, seemed to be lost in a world of his own, carrying a small soft sided suitcase. He looked up and Simone felt her breath catch in her lungs. Issac.

"Simone?" Issac left the Japanese men and hurried to her. "What are you doing here? If you had been a half hour earlier, you'd have missed me, I'm just getting home." It might have been a trick of the street lamps, Simone thought, but Issac looked amazing, whole and pure and clean. Urban moonlight was known to play tricks like that, but when she looked into his eyes and saw the clarity there, Simone knew it was no illusion.

"I don't know." She shook her head. "I was upset and I thought I gave my home address but I ended up here." Simone gasped, reaching up to touch his face. "You're not using anymore, Issac." Tears filled her eyes, and she smiled. "You aren't."

"No." Issac smiled. "I'm not. Come upstairs. You have to see what I've been doing." He took her by the hand and led her to the door, past the arguing Japanese men. "Hiro, Ando, this is Simone."

"Hello." The round faced one, Hiro said, bowing slightly. The other, Ando, bowed as well, and Simone returned the salute, letting Issac tow her past them and up to his loft. If he noticed the paintings she'd taken for his art show were missing, Issac didn't say anything. He just dropped his suitcase on a chair and opened it, pulling out a large black, leather bound sketchbook Simone had never seen before.

"Here, look." He said, handing her the sketchbook and then turning on a light. "I drew those stone sober. Simone frowned and opened the book. Neat pencil drawings, in comic format – the round faced Japanese man talking to a willowy girl, obviously enchanted. Simone flipped through the pages until she saw herself standing at the arrivals gate at Newark airport, glaring icily at a tiny young girl, who was looking around at the busy terminal with a frightened expression Simone had not noticed at the time. Chastened, Simone turned the page and saw the girl leaning against a closed door, Peter's bedroom door, tears of homesickness and fright streaming down her cheeks and in the split frame, Peter on the couch, arms behind his head, awake, lost in thought.

"Issac…" Simone looked up. "When did you draw these?"

"Three days ago." He said proudly. "I'm working on that, though. We had a bit of a set back." Issac looked around and frowned. "There are paintings missing…I needed to see one of them..."

"The gallery. I hung them when you disappeared." Simone told him. "They're safe."

"Good." Issac nodded. He frowned at her. "Did this happen already? You at the airport and this girl?" He pointed to the drawing of Claire, lost and lonely in a frame of them outside Peter's apartment building.

"Yes." Simone closed the book and handed it to Issac. "Peter brought her back from Texas."

"Texas?" The Japanese men looked up and hurried over to her. "You say, Texas?"

"I did." Simone looked up at Issac. "A cheerleader. Peter saved her from someone who was trying to kill her. She's at his apartment right now." Simone looked at the three men as they absorbed what she had told them.

"YATTA!" The round faced man finally shouted, his face lit up with a huge grin. "Peter Petrelli did it!! Saved the world!". The quieter one, Ando, clapped his hands grinning, and Issac pulled Simone into a rough hug, relief flooding his handsome face.

"That's very good news, babe. Really." Issac smiled down at her. "You don't know how good that is to hear."

Around 1:30, Claire heard a knock on the door.. She'd not even gotten ready to go to sleep, but was sitting on the windowsill, watching the activity on the street below. When she opened the door, Peter was standing there, still dressed in his regular clothes. "Hi." Claire said, smiling. "It's very late."

"Hi." Peter said and then smiled. "I know, but I was thinking, first night, strange city…do you want to go out and see some of it?" He tipped his head. "Unless you have other plans…"

"Are you kidding?" Claire gasped, pushing the door the rest of the way open. "I'd love that."

"Okay." Peter nodded. "Let's go."

They walked through the streets of Greenwich Village, and the swirl of activity made Claire dizzy. People, all kinds of people, flowed around them like water. Cars, trucks and buses still filled the streets. Music poured out of the many clubs that lines the streets, their open doors inviting passersby in to lose themselves inside. Finally, around 3:30 in the morning, Peter bought her ice cream at a little shop near the college campus that was open 24 hours. They sat in a booth near the window, watching the parade of humanity pass them by, eating ice cream and talking about everything Claire had seen on their late night tour.

"That was fun. It all reminds me of the movies." Claire said to Peter, as his hand covered hers crossing the street on their way back to the apartment. Her heart jumped, feeling his hand flex protectively around hers, and Claire looked up at Peter. He was looking both ways, and then turned his eyes down to her. She smiled nervously, and Peter laughed.

"Well, the next tour will be in the daylight." Peter informed her, opening the door to his apartment building. "And, none of this is the movies, it's all very real." Peter had not let go of her hand and Claire didn't want him to.

"That explains why I'm really tired." Claire smiled, covering her mouth with her free hand to hide her wide yawn.

"I hope get some sleep now." Peter said, as they got out and walked down his hallway to the apartment. "You've had a lot of upheaval these last few days. The rest will do you good."

Claire nodded, rubbing at her eyes. She smiled, and Peter opened his apartment door, watching as Claire walked dreamily down the hall. She turned at the bedroom door and waved. "Thanks, Peter. That was amazing."

"All part of the package. Tomorrow, after breakfast, I'll show you where everything important is, so you can find your way around." He took off his coat and hung it up. Claire was still looking at him and Peter turned. "What?"

"Nothing." Claire blushed. "Good night, Peter."

"G'night, Claire." Peter nodded, and walked into the living room to not sleep until dawn, thinking of Claire's hand in his and unsure if the thrill he got was from touching her or from the flow of her healing power as he absorbed it as his own. He fell asleep finally, thinking of what it might have been like to kiss her, a small smile playing on his lips as he drifted off.