Queen of Hearts
Characters: Paire, Ensemble, hints of Peter/Simone
Genre: Romance, UST, Humor, Angst
Rating: T, PG-13ish
Disclaimer: I don't own Heroes or any of its characters, nor do I own the lyrics in the summary, which are from the song Desperado.
Summary: "Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy. She'll beat you if she's able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet."
A/N: Spoiler Warning: To all of you who've seen Episode 1x14: Distractions, this little fic is going to disregard the revealing of a certain bio-daddy. This story is an AU fic in which Peter and Claire are not related by any means, but if you're still squicked by it, I'll understand if you stop reading. However, please don't bother with flames or any reviews telling me how icky this story is now. It's all in fun.
So, this is the beginning to a somewhat lengthy Paire fic, showing how Peter and Claire could fall in love in spite of his infatuation with Simone. I didn't have Desperado in mind when I started writing it, but when I started playing around with titles, this one just seemed right. It helps that the song fits the story. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter One: No Kiss for Sleeping Beauty
Isaac, Hiro, and Ando had studied the painting for several minutes, trying to decipher its meaning before concluding it was useless. Correction: Isaac and Ando concluded it was useless. Hiro was still staring at it intently, leaning in close, nose nearly pressing against the canvas before backing away and tilting his head in contemplation, only to lean in again.
When asked what he was doing, Hiro didn't even look away from the painting, merely responded gravely, "Studying my opponent, learning his weakness." A quick glance at Ando's raised eyebrow and dumfounded expression had comforted Isaac. Good. At least one of his new companions was sane.
"So, what now?" Isaac wondered aloud.
"I vote for plan B," Ando voiced.
"What's plan B?" questioned Isaac.
"Doesn't matter. Any plan has to be more successful than this one," Ando gestured at the drying canvas.
Isaac was inclined to agree. He had been hoping to paint some sort of clue to stopping the impending decimation of New York, maybe some insight into the exploding man. Instead, he got an exuberant, sword wielding Japanese guy about to become an appetizer. Maybe the dinosaur could breathe fire and was going to roast Hiro? After using gunpowder as seasoning? Isaac shook his head to clear it of the silly images his brain was conjuring. People were counting on him. He had to get it together.
"I'm going to try again," he said firmly, resolutely. He could do this. Maybe if he concentrated on something specific, he would be able to direct his power. After preparing another canvas, he sat in front of it and closed his eyes in concentration. His last conscious thought was a plea to whatever force or deity that had given him this strange gift: Tell me how to stop the explosion.
When Isaac came out of the trance and peered at his newest painting, he still wasn't sure what it had to do with the explosion, but at least this one gave him some sense of direction, some hint as to what he had to do next.
There she was, the elusive cheerleader, leaning over a bedridden Peter, smiling at him tenderly.
After seeing his new painting, Isaac had called the hospital in Odessa and learned that Peter was indeed a patient, but no, they couldn't be connected to his room because Mr. Petrelli was in a coma and unable to come to the phone. So now, he was walking down the nearly empty high school hallway, looking for a cheerleader named Claire Bennet.
Isaac felt a little sorry for Ando's eyebrow, which was certainly getting a work out from the number of times it raised in response to the kooky things his friend kept doing. Currently, Hiro was creeping from door to door, sneakily peering through the glass windows, into the classrooms, searching for a blonde girl in a red and white uniform.
A teenage boy was coming their way, blatantly staring at Hiro's strange antics. "Don't mind him. He…" Isaac trailed off, grasping at any sort of way to explain Hiro, "suffers from brain damage," he finished. Apparently, that was good enough for the boy, who just nodded understandingly. "Hey, do you know where we could find Claire Bennet?"
Hiro took this as his cue to jump in, "We must find the cheerleader or the world as we know it will end!"
The boy, still staring dumbly at Hiro – creeping, crouching Hiro – gestured at a pair of doors and mumbled something about practice and a football field, and Hiro was off, charging through the doors and calling out, "Cheerleader Claire!"
"Brain damaged?" Ando snickered.
"Hey, it was the only thing I could think of," Isaac answered, defensively.
Ando smirked, "I think your explanation was right on."
Isaac chuckled. "Come on. We better get out there before he scares the poor girl away."
Smile, shout, clap, jump, kick. Claire had loved being a cheerleader, had put so much effort into it, but now it just seemed so inane. She was just going through the motions, working on autopilot. God, she didn't know how much more of this she could take, didn't know how much longer she could stand in cheer formation without screaming or pulling out her hair. How long was she expected to fake this?
Claire's head whipped around, looking for the source of the shout. A small Asian man was running in her direction, finally stopping in front of the practicing cheerleaders. A little out of breath, he grinned earnestly, "I come in peace!"
Claire's brows shot up into her hairline, and she looked around self-consciously as the other cheerleaders snickered. The man smiled expectantly, presumably waiting for 'Cheerleader Claire' to reveal herself. A little hesitantly, she offered, "I'm Claire."
The childlike man's grin widened excitedly, "It is an honor to meet you, Cheerleader Claire!"
"Uh… thank you?" Claire replied awkwardly.
"Take it easy, Hiro," a new voice joined. There were two more men coming her way, the one who just spoke holding a large, rectangular object – a picture? "He just gets a little excited. Are you Claire?"
Claire had no choice but to nod. She didn't know what to expect but had a sneaky suspicion that these men weren't here to offer her a discount on the cheerleading uniforms she kept having to replace. How bad was it that she was considering buying them in bulk?
"I'm Isaac," he offered his hand to her, and she tentatively shook it. "This is going to sound really strange, but…" Isaac trailed off, as if suddenly realizing that the entire cheerleading squad was eavesdropping. "Would you mind stepping over there and having a word with us?"
Claire consented, albeit a little apprehensively. Once they were out of hearing range, Isaac turned and faced her, "We need your help."
When the three men – Isaac, Hiro, and Ando, she'd learned – came to her and asked her for her help, she'd been apprehensive, of course. A homicidal killer was after her, and her father wasn't at all who she thought he was, so it only made sense that she'd be mistrustful. Isaac kept trying to reassure her, speaking in soothing tones, telling her he understood that what he was saying sounded crazy. Even though he'd explained that his paintings were what enabled Peter to save her, she was still hesitant. But once she learned it was Peter who needed her help, she'd interrupted their rambling explanations and urged them to take her to him.
Once they were in the car, Isaac told her Peter was in the hospital. He'd shown her a painting of Peter lying in a hospital bed, eyes open, looking up at her. Isaac took this to mean that Peter would wake in her presence, and though she wasn't sure how capable she was at reviving coma victims, she was willing to give it a shot. She owed him her life, after all. If he needed her to sit by his bedside to get better, she'd gladly do it.
And she wanted to see him. Even if she couldn't help him, she wanted to see him. How was it possible to care so much for someone she didn't even know? She'd felt so alone since she'd found out about her freakish abilities, but he'd changed that. Because of him, she knew she wasn't alone; there were others in the world like her, and he was one of them.
But it was more than that. She hadn't been exaggerating when she called him her hero. He had saved her, had died for her. It only made sense that he would become special to her, especially in light of recent circumstances. The loss of Zach and her father's betrayal made her cling that much harder to the precious memory of the stranger willing to sacrifice everything for her.
They finally arrived at Peter's room in the hospital, and there he was, unmoving and pale as death. Ironically, he looked better than the last time she'd seen him, which wasn't saying much since he'd been covered in blood and sweat, coughing harshly, eyes burning red. Now, the blood was gone, most likely washed away by nurses, and he was dressed in a hospital gown instead of the bloody t-shirt. His bangs were slicked back off his forehead, a shame, Claire thought idly. She remembered instantly liking his hair, thinking the way it fell into his eyes was endearing.
There was a man, dressed in an expensive looking suit, standing at the window. He didn't so much as glance at them when he heared the door open, "You've got the wrong room. My brother's the only patient in here."
"Petrelli nii-san!" That certainly got the man's attention.
Isaac looked to Hiro, "You know Nathan Petrelli?"
A succinct "No" from Nathan was drowned by Hiro's gushes about flying men and forming a Justice League. Claire could see the man's jaw clench, as if Hiro had hit a sore spot. The man's voice was tight when he asked, "What do you want?"
Isaac stepped forward. "We're here to help Peter."
"Well, as you can see, he's in a coma. There's nothing you can do." A dismissal.
Isaac let out a breath before trying again, "That's where you're wrong. I painted him waking up, and the things I paint come true."
Nathan's eyes narrowed, "I know all about your paintings. If it weren't for them, my brother wouldn't be in this mess. He wouldn't have gone gallivanting off to save some cheerleader, thinking he was some sort of superhero. Now, leave before I have you escorted from the premises."
"He is a hero! He saved the cheerleader!" At Hiro's emphatic declaration, Claire bit her lip, feeling everyone's attention divert to her.
Peter's brother assessed her, eyes trailing over her scornfully. "This is the girl? The one he thinks is the key to saving the world?" She felt an instinctive urge to defend herself but kept her mouth shut.
"Yes," Isaac affirmed, placating, "and we think she's the key saving Peter, too."
More derision, accompanied by the sardonic raising of an eyebrow, "And just how does she intend to accomplish that?"
"We don't know," Isaac replied, but he was quick to continue, "but look at this," he held up the painting he'd been holding. "His eyes are open." Isaac said this as if it were a revelation, one that Nathan, if his expression was anything to go on, clearly wasn't privy to.
"I know this must seem crazy," began Isaac, but he was quickly cut off.
"It doesn't seem crazy. It is crazy. You're wasting my time, which consequently is more valuable than the average person's, so if you don't mind…"
Frustrated, "You care about Peter, right? I mean, of course you do; he's your brother. So why don't you just let her try? What have you got to lose?" The magic words. The man's expression lost its hostility, and the tension left his shoulders, signaling his concession to Isaac's request.
And everyone's eyes were back on her, waiting for her to work whatever miracle foretold of in the painting. She felt out of her depth, helplessly admitting, "I don't know what to do."
Nathan gave a derisive snort, while the others looked about as clueless as she felt until finally, Hiro took one of her hands, led her to the hospital bed, and directed her to sit beside Peter's unconscious body. Then, looking back and forth between her and the painting, he positioned her, placing one of her hands on Peter's chest, moving the other to cradle his face. "Like the painting," he explained. Claire couldn't help but give Hiro a small smile.
Claire felt a bit awkward having her hands on him but didn't dare move them in case their position really was necessary for waking Peter up. "Now what?" she turned to the others.
"Maybe he's like Sleeping Beauty and just needs a kiss," mocked Nathan, but when he could see the others were actually considering the idea, he rolled his eyes and added, "That was sarcasm."
"It couldn't hurt to try. Go ahead, Claire," Isaac encouraged.
Claire's heart beat just a little bit faster, which was silly because it was just a kiss. And it's not like it would mean anything; it was strictly an attempt to help him like he'd helped her. Well, not exactly like he'd helped her, obviously, because she didn't think a kiss would've saved her from getting the top of her head cut off, and she really needed to stop stalling and just get this kiss over with.
She nervously moistened her lips, let her thumb brush over his cheek, and took in a deep breath before letting it out in a rush. Slowly, she lowered her head, bringing her face closer to his… and met his eyes with hers.
"Angel?" he breathed.
"Cheerleader," she corrected amusedly, still leaning over him, cupping his cheek and clutching his covered chest.
His confusion gave way to recognition, "Claire!" Claire gasped when he suddenly shot up, knocking her off balance, but catching her before she could tumble to the floor. His hands gripped her shoulders, and she had fistfuls of hospital gown. His wide eyes mirrored hers, and she couldn't help but giggle at the way they were tangled together. Peter gave her a lopsided grin in response and loosened his grip before letting go completely, and she did the same, bringing her hands down to rest in her lap. She looked down demurely before raising her eyes to his again.
"Isn't this touching," Nathan's wry comment made her cheeks hot.
"Nathan!" Peter grinned as his brother squeezed his shoulder affectionately. Then, noticing the rest of the onlookers, "What are you guys doing here? What am I doing here?"
"You've been in a coma. Do you remember getting out of jail," Peter's expression closed off, turned solemn, but Nathan pressed on, "You fainted like a little girl." And Peter's grin was back.
"That still doesn't explain the rest of you," his eyes flitted to the others in the room before falling on Hiro. "You're Hiro, right?"
Hiro smiled widely and bowed, "Present Hiro, at your service."
"It's nice to finally meet you, and it's good to see you again," he inclined his head at Ando. "Isaac, where the hell have you been?"
"In the rehab from hell," replied Isaac. "They said they'd help me kick my habit, but turns out they were only interested in my paintings."
"Your paintings?" Peter tilted his head questioningly.
"Yeah, her dad (Claire looked at him sharply) wanted more help figuring out how to save her, but I couldn't paint sober, so he offered me drugs. Some rehab, huh? I had to sneak out."
So her dad knew someone was after her? He knew that someone would try to kill her, and he didn't even warn her? And it dawned on her. He may not have warned her, but he did try to save her; he'd grounded her, confined her to the house, thinking that she'd be safe as long as she stayed home. But there were still so many questions, so many things she didn't know about him.
"But it's okay, I mean, I'm clean now," Isaac continued, "and I did it." He held up his portrait of Peter and Claire. "I painted this, no drugs involved. It's how we knew to bring Claire to you."
And Peter's eyes were back on her, gazing at her in wonderment. "You healed me."
She smiled, but then shook her head a little. "I don't know how, though. I mean, I can heal myself, but I didn't know it could work on other people."
"That's my gift," Peter explained. "We all have them. Nathan flies ("Let's broadcast it, why don't we."), Isaac paints the future, Hiro travels through time ("and space," Hiro piped.), and I… I do whatever it is that the people around me do."
Claire looked around at everyone, amazed that a few days ago, she thought she was the only one of her kind, and now she was in a room filled with people like her. A room full of freaks, she thought fondly. "What about Ando? What does he do?"
Hiro answered happily, "He's my sidekick," which got a loud snort from said sidekick.
Amused, Isaac elaborated, "He provides the humorous commentary. Only, sometimes it's in Japanese so you won't be able to understand it," which earned laughs from nearly everyone, and Claire, despite just meeting these people, felt connected to them, as if she were a natural member of this odd grouping of people. She reveled in the feeling, and let her newfound sense of belonging take away what was left of her reservations.
"So, Peter," her voice laced with calculated innocence, "Do I really look like an angel?"
As the others laughed, Peter looked around at everyone, confused. She pressed on, "That is what you called me, isn't it? An Angel?"
Peter groaned, but his grin didn't leave his face. "Tell me I didn't."
"You so did," she teased, "I was leaning down to you, and then you opened your eyes and said…" she paused before finishing dreamily, "'Angel.'" More laughter.
Peter chuckled a little, but then furrowed his brows, "Wait a sec. Why were you leaning down to me?"
The questioned wiped the smirk off her face, freezing her like a deer caught in headlights. She looked around, desperate for someone to come to her rescue, but their amused expressions told her she was on her own. "It was your brother's idea," and how stupid of an excuse was that? But apparently, it worked because Peter's attention was diverted away from her and onto Nathan.
Nathan raised his eyebrow at her before turning to Peter. "I was trying to get you some action."
Peter's eyes widened as she sputtered, "That's not what happened! You were supposed to be like Sleeping Beauty." Oh God, why couldn't she just keep her mouth shut?
"Sleeping Beauty?" he bemusedly questioned, "You kissed me to wake me up?"
"No, no," she denied, "There was no kissing."
"You woke up before she could do it," Isaac supplied helpfully.
"Looks like I missed out," still with that teasing, flirtatious tone, "Then again, I could always lie back down, so we could try this again."
"A do-over," encouraged Hiro.
"What do you say?" Peter wiggled his brows a little. "I'll even get in position." True to his word, he lay back down on the bed and closed his eyes.
"I don't think so," giggled Claire. Peter still hadn't moved. She rolled her eyes, "It's too late Peter; you missed your chance." Still no movement. "Peter," she admonished. Sighing, she finally compromised, "Will you accept an IOU?" And his eyes opened.
"Can I have it in writing?" he implored.
She pretended to be affronted, "Is my word not good enough?"
Peter looked her over, assessing her, "You look trustworthy enough," then lips curling into a crooked smile, "but you better not forget that you owe me a kiss."
Claire laughed, "I'm sure if I forget, you'll remind me."
"You can bet your life on it."