Disclaimer: Not mine!
SUMMARY: It was covert, which made it exciting, but Claire's heart was still lodged in her throat...
SPOILERS: Through 1x11, "Fallout"
My own take on the "bedside vigil." Enjoy!
It was covert, which made it exciting, but Claire's heart was still lodged in her throat like a chunk of half-chewed stew beef as she filtered through the hospital lobby like a ghost. It's hard to blend into the background when you're certain every nurse, every patient, every doctor on the floor can hear the thump, thump of your heart, like something out of Edgar Allan Poe. If she were to look in a mirror, she was certain she'd find herself glowing bright red.
"I'm looking for Peter Petrelli," she mumbled to the nurse at the check-in station.
The woman peered into the dark cave of Claire's hoodie. "Say again?"
"Peter Petrelli," she repeated, a little louder. "The police told me he was brought here?"
"Oh, him." Claire frowned at the nurse's tone, but the woman had turned away to tap at her computer's keyboard. "That brother of his is enough to drive a sane woman crazy. East coast politicos and their egos..."
Claire didn't know how to respond to that, and was thankful when the woman handed her a piece of scrap paper with Peter's room number scribbled on it. The nurse directed her to the elevators, and Claire tried to stay as inconspicuous as possible while she made her way toward them. Of course, that was easier said than done; a pretty teenage girl, dressed like a street rat, asking for the room number of a man at least ten years older than her was bound to draw some attention. It didn't help that she kept looking furtively left and right. The problem with looking furtive was that it was so obvious that that was precisely what you were doing. She was glad when the brushed steel doors of the elevator closed in front of her and left her alone for a moment to catch her breath.
Somewhere between last night and this afternoon, her life had fallen apart. It started with Jackie's death, and came to a head when that man – he called himself the Haitian – had tried-but-not-tried to wipe her memory. "Can you keep a secret?" he'd asked. Part of her had wanted to laugh and remind him that she'd been hiding her "superpowers" from all but a couple of people for the past six months, and didn't that prove that she could keep her mouth shut when it mattered? But he didn't seem like the type who'd find even the remotest amount of humor in the situation, so she'd let it lie and let him tell her everything.
All of it.
About her father. About the Laboratory. About the Other Subjects. About Sylar. About Peter.
The elevator dinged, drawing her from her reverie, and she stepped out of the gleaming steel box into the dimmed lights of the third floor corridor. The nurse's scrawl on the scrap of paper was almost illegible from having been crunched in Claire's sweaty palm, but she was able to make out the number 333, which would be to her right if the sign on the wall in front of her was to be believed. Normally she wouldn't have doubted something like that, but last night she'd thought the one person in the world she could trust was her father. Now she was having trouble believing much of anything.
She wandered down the hall, trying to blend into the shadows and partially succeeding, thanks to her dark jeans and charcoal hoodie. She must have been doing better than even she realized, because the tall man who came striding out of a room to her left didn't even notice her until he'd walked right into her and sent her sprawling flat on her back across the industrial tile.
"Oh, Jesus... Hang on." She thought he was talking to her until she saw he was actually talking into a minuscule cellphone cradled up near his ear. "Yeah... Look, I know, all right? You just worry on your end and let me smooth things over out here, okay? Now hang on." He held the phone away from his ear and extended a hand to her. "Sorry about that," he said, giving her a sparkling white smile that made her think of a snake. "Any broken bones?"
"Nothing I can't handle," she said a little petulantly, dusting herself off.
"Good, good," he responded distractedly. "No hard feelings. Here, go buy yourself a candy bar or something." He pressed a dollar bill into her hand and wandered away, once again trading terse words with whoever was on the other end of the phone.
East coast politicos and their egos, she remembered, and looked up at the door to the room the man had just exited. Sure enough, the number 333 winked down at her. She took a step backward to peer through the wall of windows that opened into the room, and her breath caught at what she saw inside.
Peter was propped up in bed, surrounded by various beeping machines that kept track of his heartbeat, respiration, and brainwaves, and weren't at all reassuring. The greenish light cast by the florescent bulbs above him turned his skin septic, dyspeptic, and made her vaguely seasick. His hair had gone from boyish and bouncy to lank and greasy. He looked, quite frankly, like a junkie with tuberculosis.
Her hand was shaking as she opened the door and stepped inside. Peter didn't stir as she made her way toward his bed and stood by his side. "Hey," she murmured, fussing with the cuffs of her shirt and staring down at his hand where it lay atop the sheets. "It's me. Claire. The girl you saved?" It was an elegant hand; long fingers, a fine pattern of veins painted across the back. Almost without thinking, she reached out to rest her own hand over his. Her tanned fingers seemed to glow against the sickly pallor of his skin.
"I'm sorry you're here," she whispered, rubbing her thumb across his knuckles. A tight ball of emotion had begun to burn in her throat, and she knew if she looked up she was going to start crying. Better to keep looking down; to say what she had to say. "I know it's because of me. You wouldn't be here if you hadn't come to save me. You know, it's really crappy feeling guilty for being alive." She squeezed his hand, shivering at how clammy he felt.
"Look, this... guy came to see me a few hours ago," she told him, toying with his fingers. "He works with my father. I know this is really weird, but he knows about us. They both do. It's... really confusing, and kind of hard to explain, and I don't have a lot of time to explain it. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm not supposed to even remember you." She swallowed, trying to dispel the tears she could feel building in her throat. When she looked up, they blurred her vision and she blinked them away so she could focus on Peter's face.
"He told me you were here," she whispered fervently, squeezing his hand tighter. "He told me what's wrong with you. You're a mimic, right? You take on other people's powers, abilities, whatever." Her eyes darted around the room, half expecting to find her father materializing out of the shadows. "He – the Haitian, that's what he calls himself – he said you've got to learn control. You've been around too many people like us; people with power. Your brain doesn't know how to process it all, so it shut itself off." She scrubbed at her eyes with the heel of her hand. "Are you hearing any of this? Peter, you have to learn how to control it or you're never going to wake up. Please, I need you to wake up. Peter? Please wake up!"
She was getting hysterical. It was there in the vibrato of her voice and the racing of the blood in her veins. Gulping down several deep breaths to calm herself, she continued. "No one else remembers," she told him. Her voice was still shaking, but she could handle it now. "My father, he's had their memories erased. That's what the Haitian does; he wipes people's memories. That's what he was going to do to me, but he changed his mind. He said I had to remember. He told me to keep it a secret. But I can't keep it a secret from everybody, Peter. I need someone to convince me I didn't dream this; that I'm not completely crazy!"
She folded his hand between both of hers, clinging to him like a lifeline. "He can't wipe your memory," she whispered fervently. "Because of your power. When he's near you, you're like him. It's like trying to wipe his own memory, and that's not possible."
She leaned forward, gazing down into Peter's face with wet, fearful eyes. "I don't know if you can hear this, Peter. I really, really hope you do. All my friends are gone, and I don't want to go back to being that girl I used to be before all this happened. I don't like her a whole lot. I want to be ME. You're the only person who remembers me this way, besides my father. But he doesn't count; he took everyone else away.
"You figured out who I was and how to find me. Now I need you to figure out how to fix what's going on inside your head. I know you can do it; the Haitian told me you're a nurse. You take care of people all the time. You took care of me. Now you have to take care of yourself."
Claire could hear the sound of footsteps coming toward the room; an animated voice. She dared a glance over her shoulder at the door, then looked back to Peter, eyes wide and worried. "I'll try to come back, but I don't know if I'll be able to," she told him hurriedly, raising one hand to tuck his hair behind his ear. "My father thinks I've forgotten you. If he sees me here..." She shook her head, biting her bottom lip.
"When you wake up, come and find me," she whispered. "Claire Bennet. Remember that." She closed her eyes. "Please remember..."
"Can I help you? Oh, you again." Claire looked toward the door to see the tall man with the cell phone walking in. He didn't look happy to see her. "Problem with the candy machine?"
"No," she told him, surreptitiously releasing Peter's hand. "I just saw him through the window. He looked lonely."
"Young lady, my brother's in a coma. He's not lonely. He's lucky to be alive." There was an edge to his voice; a tinge of emotion that hinted that maybe this man wasn't as narcissistic as he seemed at first blush. "So thank you for your concern, but this is family business. So, if you wouldn't mind...?" He let the question dangle, but there was clearly no leeway. He wanted her gone.
Claire risked a glance at Peter's unconscious face before walking around the bed toward the door. She paused and looked up at his brother. "What's your name?" she asked.
The man looked vaguely surprised. "Nathan," he said. "Nathan Petrelli."
Claire nodded. Holding out her hand, she dropped the dollar bill he'd given her. Just as she'd expected, Nathan ducked down to catch it. "Buy him a flower," she told him. "Something pretty. I want the message to say "You're not alone". You can sign it "From Claire." Will you do that?"
Nathan looked a little affronted at being ordered around by a girl half his age, let alone height, but he gave her a short nod. "Fine. Any other demands?" Anything else to get you out of here? was the unspoken question.
"Nope, that's enough." She breezed past him through the door.
"Peter, Peter, Peter," she heard Nathan mutter as the door slowly swung shut behind her. "Only you could get the girl while lying flat on your back and passed out cold. Care to wake up and explain that to me?"
That made her smile. It seemed to her a small piece of her world had just been put back together.