Title: Misunderstood
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: None
Pairs: pre-Peter/Claire

Warnings: None. Except that this fic takes place in my imaginary Heroes arc where Nathan is not Claire's father. Who is? Who cares! It's fluff that does not assume canon and is based on my assumptions leading into the hiatus, not out.

Notes: Written for the lj user thisquiet for the Valentine's Day Hero ficathon!
Prompt: Peter thinking that Claire is in love with Zach. Not full-blown romance, but getting there. UST.

Misunderstood by SLynn

He was trying hard to ignore it, he really was. But between the steady tack-tack-tack and the giggling, it was near impossible to do. Peter really wasn't sure which was worse.

"I'm not bothering you, am I?"

Peter looked up from across the dining room table and shook his head in a well-practiced form of denial.

"Are you sure?" Claire asked. "Because you made this sort of noise like I might…"

"No," Peter assured her. "You're fine. I'm just… distracted."

Claire nodded and went back to sending messages with her Sidekick when she really should be studying. College wasn't like High School, Peter wanted to say, but he held his tongue. It wasn't his place. If Claire would rather goof off than apply herself that was her choice.

But she really was spending entirely too much time talking with that guy.

On cue Claire erupted into another fit of giggles.

Peter adjusted in his chair, contemplating getting up and leaving altogether.

"You did it again."

"Did what?" Peter asked, clearing his throat and shuffling the papers in front of him.

"You know what," Claire said with a slight smirk. "That noise. That kind of huffy breath you take every time I laugh. Am I that annoying?"

"No," Peter said quite sincerely. "No, I just… I'm sorry. I've just got a lot to do here and…"

"I'm annoying you," Claire finished for him.

"You're not," Peter insisted. "Really."

"Then what is it?" Claire asked, leaning forward and ignoring the gentle chirp on her phone.

"It's nothing."

It chirped again.

"It doesn't sound like nothing," Claire argued.

Chirp.

"Are you going to get that?"

"Is it bothering you?" Claire asked in a mock-sweet voice.

"No."

"Really?"

As if by design, or providence, the phone chirped once more causing Peter to glare down at the wretched device.

"Must be important," Peter said, hoping she'd stop questioning him unreasonably and go back to whatever it was she'd been doing before.

"It can wait," Claire returned smoothly. "I mean, if it's not a nuisance. Right?"

"Doesn't bother me at all," Peter returned, looking back down at his papers.

Claire, pushing the Sidekick towards the center of the table, picked up her course book and began flipping through it as the device continued to chirp at regular intervals.

Peter refused to look up again. Refused to think about why it was annoying him so much. Knowing it wasn't so much what Claire was doing but who she was doing it with; who Claire was talking to so much and so often.

Who was making her laugh like that.

Riffling through a few more pages, Peter just caught the barely suppressed smile on Claire's face as she peered over the top of her book at him.

"Alright," Peter said, dropping a hand on the phone in one swift movement.

"Hey," Claire said, reaching out and just missing it as well; her hand landing on top of his.

"Let's just see what Romeo here has to say that is so important that he has to text you over and over and over again," Peter said, pulling the Sidekick away from her.

"That is private," Claire stated loudly, getting up and moving around the table.

Peter was quicker than she was; already halfway around the table before she'd even left her chair.

"Well then," Peter teased, "you shouldn't have left it out of reach."

"Give it back," Claire said warningly.

"Why? Don't want me reading all your little love notes?"

"Love notes?" Claire shot back at him. "What are you talking about?"

"You and your boyfriend in Texas," Peter said as the two of them continued their odd little dance around the table. "Texting, chatting, talking all the time. Come on, it's obvious. How do you unlock this thing?"

"Like I'm going to tell you," Claire answered with an annoyed huff of her own. "And you think Zach is my boyfriend? Where did you get that idea?"

"Where? Claire, like I said, it's obvious. You talk about him all the time. Every other word out of your mouth is 'Zach'."

"Jealous?"

"What?" Peter said, stopping dead in his tracks. "Why… That's… No. Why would I be jealous?"

Claire stopped and shrugged.

"I'm not jealous."

"Okay," Claire said.

"I'm not."

"I agreed with you. You're not jealous," Claire said in tone that suggested otherwise. "Can I have my phone back now?"

"Fine," he said, returning it and feeling a bit silly as he sat back down.

They both returned to what they'd been doing before; Claire busy texting on her phone and Peter with his files.

"You know," Claire said after a long pause, "I only talk about him so much because I miss him and home. He's my best friend. He was my only friend. Zach's all I have left of my old life. He's important to me but not… not like that."

"It's really not my business," Peter said without looking up.

Claire nodded before picking up a few of her books and heading towards the kitchen.

As soon as she had her back to him, Peter looked up and watched her go. Shaking his head slowly, not sure what to do about any of this and knowing it was getting a bit out of hand.

Looking back at the table he realized she'd left her phone behind.

More than that, she'd left it unlocked.

Peter was on the point of calling her back but curiosity got the better of him.

Leaning to take a look at the kitchen door, just to be safe, Peter sat up a bit straighter and turned the phone so that the screen was facing him.

Sure enough, the last few lines of text were still there.

Peter knew he shouldn't read it. It really was private and none of his business.

But he also really wanted to know if she'd been telling the truth; if Zach really wasn't her boyfriend.

He wouldn't question the reason behind that particular bit of curiosity. Peter refused to do that.

But he had to know.

Taking one last look at the door, just to be positive, Peter fixed his eyes on the phone's screen.

On the very last line.

FILMSBYZACH i told u he's into u

Peter turned the phone back around hastily, almost afraid to read more.

Did that mean what he thought it meant? Had they been talking about…

No.

No, Peter refused to think about it. Thinking about it would be bad. Claire was eighteen. Of course, most eighteen year-olds hadn't been through nearly so much, nor would they have handled it nearly so well as Claire seemed to be doing.

Still, that was no excuse. That wasn't a reason. Anything beyond friendship wouldn't be right.

Even if…

Claire came back into the room shaking him from his thoughts.

"I forgot my phone," she said with a smile as she took it off the table.

Peter looked up and gave her what he could only imagine was a guilty smile in return.

"You didn't look at it did you? I mean, it is private. Personal."

"No," Peter lied. "Of course I didn't. I wouldn't…"

"Okay," Claire said with a brisk nod, cutting him off.

Peter nodded with her, watching this time as she headed back out the way she'd came.

"Um, Peter?"

"Yeah?"

"Just so we're on the same page here," she said with a determined look and only slight blush rising to her cheeks, "I am too."

"You're…" Peter started to say before trailing off as realization dawned on him.

Claire only smiled wider and gave him a knowing look before pushing her way through the door behind her.

Peter sat back, watching the spot where she'd just been and slowly shaking his head. He'd caught her meaning, caught it fully and knew the ball was in his court now. It was his decision, one he really wasn't sure he'd be able to make.

Either way, he had to be clear with her. For or against, no in-betweens. It was a scary prospect. Peter could see himself happy with Claire. He really could. But he also knew at what cost that happiness would come.

Only one thing was certain right now.

Neither of them could afford to be misunderstood.

The End