Long Wait till Judgment
Characters/Pairings: Peter-centric, Paire
Genre: Angst, Romance
Disclaimer: I don't own Heroes or any of its characters; I just feel the need to corrupt them after the ending of Distractions.
Summary: They're the definition of star-crossed lovers; Romeo and Juliet have nothing on them. At least those two could die and put themselves out of their misery.
A/N: Here's the deal, people. This fic contains incest. It's completely cesty, through and through, and if that's not you're cuppa or you're easily squicked, please just hit the back button now. You've been warned, and I don't need you sending me flames about how sick and twisted I am. I'm already well aware of it.
To those of you who are still with me: read on and join me in the Special Hell. We have Milo-shaped cookies.
The Long Wait till Judgment
When he bumps into Claire in the hallway, he feels the spark – he'd be lying if he says otherwise – and it only becomes more obvious when she visits him in his cell.
But a while later, she shows up on Nathan's doorstep, and after the initial shock, he shakes his head, bemused that he'd actually lusted after his niece. He doesn't feel particularly sick or twisted; he had no way of knowing they were related.
He sweeps the memory of those inappropriate thoughts under the rug, and that's the end of it.
Or so he thinks.
He and Claire are the outcasts of the family, the pieces that don't quite fit, so he takes it upon himself to make her feel welcome. He spends a lot of time with her, telling himself he's just trying to be there for her, to help her adjust; he's the closest thing to a friend she has, and she's the bestfriend he's ever had.
He takes her out to places to cheer her up, never mind that she wasn't sad when he extended the invitation. He gives her reassuring, soothing hugs, and surely she doesn't notice when they linger too long. She comes to his apartment all the time to get away from things; his place is her sanctuary, and he's happy to have her there, a little too happy if he's being honest with himself. He doesn't like being honest with himself.
Her touches burn on his skin, and when she smiles at him, his day always goes better. She's vibrant and golden and everything beautiful in the world, and he's nothing really, but she treats him like he's something.
She's the one who sits with him while he talks about destiny and heroics, and she smiles indulgently and tells him, "I'd follow you into battle anytime." And when Isaac's paintings send them off on another mission, she insists on staying by his side; "I always hated my powers till I realized I could keep you safe."
She's the balm to his troubled soul, the one who casts the shadows away when they're burying him far too deep.
Claire's the type who likes to cuddle. One night, they're sitting on the couch watching a movie, and she's snuggled up against him, her breasts pushed up against his arm, and it takes him a moment to remember why he shouldn't like it.
He catches himself having idle little thoughts about the shape of her mouth, wondering whether her lips are as soft as they look. But it's all innocent – appears innocent – until the day she's beaming up at him, eyes sparkling with mischief, and he has to fight off the urge to close the gap between them and find out exactly how soft those lips are.
He now knows all too well what a sick fuck he is, but owning up to it doesn't change a thing. It doesn't make her any less tempting. She's the forbidden fruit, but there's no serpent urging him to taste; he wants her all on his own. She's innocent and pure, and he can't decide whether he wants to worship at the foot of her pedestal or yank her off it and drag her down into the muck with him.
She's almost twenty now, a college girl, even if she did elect to stay with Nathan and Heidi instead of living in the dorms. He still has his insane fascination with her, wants her now more than ever – even if she is currently dressed in bunny pajamas.
They're lying on their sides, facing each other under the blanket on his bed – it was her idea to have the sleepover, though he doesn't know why he agreed; then she flashes him a smile and he suddenly remembers. The covers are pulled up over their heads, and they're giggling together like schoolchildren, telling jokes and exchanging embarrassing stories, and she finally asks, "Do you wanna know a secret?"
He urges her to spill, and she makes him pinky swear not to tell anyone before she leans in and whispers conspiratorially, "When we first met, I had the hugest crush on you." It's too dark to tell, but he's sure she's blushing.
"Really?" he asks, interest piqued.
He feels the pillow move as she nods her head. "Yeah, imagine my surprise when I found out I'd been having sexy thoughts about my uncle."
"Sexy thoughts?" he smirks, "You fantasized about me?"
"I know," she bemoans. "It's so embarrassing." The blanket shifts as she shrugs, "But it's not like it even matters; you never would've been interested in me, anyway."
She seems dejected, and he reassures her even though he knows he shouldn't, "I would've been very interested," leaves off the fact that, technically, he still is.
He can sense the coy smile spreading across her face. "Really? What would you have found so interesting?"
And he knows they're playing with fire – this flirtation shouldn't exist between them – but he answers her anyway, "Everything."
He's suddenly all too aware of how close they are, wrapped in the warmth of their makeshift cocoon, breathing each other's breaths. She's the one who leans in to kiss him, just the faintest brush of her lips against his before pulling back to gauge his reaction.
Her eyes dart back and forth between his own, and he doesn't protest when she leans in again; soft, butterfly kisses, timid and unsure. He lets her take the lead, a slow, torturous lead as if she thinks he's about to stop her any moment – she couldn't be farther from the truth.
He feels the tips of her fingers gently caress his face, down his throat to his collarbone, skimming across his chest; she keeps taking things a step further, such small, baby steps, looking into his eyes the entire time to make sure it's okay.
When she reaches for the waistband of his pants, he shifts a little to help her ease them down his hips. And now she's pushing her own bottoms down, letting them crumple up at the foot of the bed. Her bare leg bends up along the outside of his, and her hands press against his shoulders, pulling herself up until she can tilt her hips and slowly ease him in. She slides down, inch by inch, and it's so fucking erotic he might lose himself before he's all the way in.
She watches him as she starts to move against him, and he follows the rhythm she sets, slow, careful strokes, a tentative push and pull. There's not much leverage, but neither are willing to adjust anything, as if any movement besides this gentle rocking will scare the other away. They hold each other's gaze the whole time, eyes boring into one another's, knowing they shouldn't be doing this, waiting for the other to stop, too afraid to commit to the moment because at any second it might be torn apart.
But then she lets out a soft moan, her eyes fluttering shut, and the last bit of his control snaps. He rolls her onto her back, braces his hands against the mattress, and starts pumping into her. When her body curls around him, he takes her mouth like he's always wanted to, hard and desperate, and she responds, just as needy, just as eager, hands clawing at his back as her body quivers beneath him.
In the morning, he wakes up with her naked body sprawled over his, has no idea how many times he had her the night before – couldn't stop at just once. He reaches out and reverently strokes her back before remembering he's not supposed to be touching her. He gets up and goes to shower, hoping to avoid on awkward morning after, needing some time away from her to figure out how to handle this.
But he's not alone for long because she's pushing aside the shower curtain and daintily stepping in. The night before, he'd touched, tasted, and suckled every inch of her, and still his breath hitches at the sight of water cascading over her bare curves, and any thoughts about not letting this happen again vanish like ether – he wasn't committed to them anyway.
Ever since then, they keep falling into bed together. He tries to rationalize it, says it's harmless, that he'll stop as soon as he gets her out of his system. He knows he should feel disgusted with himself – normal people don't have sex with their niece – but the feel of her body arching against him isn't disgusting in the least.
They never talk about what they're doing; they know once they do, that's the end, so the subject's just as taboo as the affair they're having. They live in their own little bubble, spending all their spare time in each other's company, having long talks about anything and everything, memorizing each other, pretending they're the same as any other couple.
They still go out and do things together, only now, there's a new edge to it. When they're at the movies, she tugs on his hand and tells him to follow her. She giggles and makes sure the restroom is empty before shoving him into a vacant stall. Her lips move hungrily against his as she fumbles with his zip, struggles to get the condom on, and it's not long before he's hoisting her up, skirt rucked up around her hips, and pushing her panties aside so he can thrust up into her.
Once their bodies are spent, he holds her against the wall and smiles wryly, "So much for the movie."
She responds with a languid sigh, "It just gives us an excuse to come see it again."
Arching his brow at her, "Are we actually going to watch it next time?"
And she arches her brow right back. "Do you care?"
No. No, he doesn't. Not in the least.
One night at dinner, she makes it a point to sit in the chair beside him, nothing strange about that since everyone knows how close they've become. He feels her hand land on his thigh, hidden beneath the table, and that little touch is all it takes to make him hard. She keeps touching him, stroking her fingers along the inside of his thigh, tracing the inseam of his pants, and there's a smile on her face as she chats and laughs with the family, like nothing's out of the ordinary, like she's not hand-fucking him right under their noses.
When they're finished eating dinner – though he's not sure if he actually ate anything – he follows her up to her room, and no one bats an eye; they just smile at how sweet he is for being so good with his niece, never mind that as soon as her door's locked behind them, he's tearing at her clothes.
He takes her hard against the wall, maybe too hard, but she clings to him the entire time, biting into his shoulder to muffle her cries, and when he finally slumps against her, she takes his face in her hands and kisses him, a slow, languid kiss, and tells him she'll come over to his place tomorrow. And though he knows he should tell her not to, that they have to stop doing this, he just nods his head, okay.
She likes to use her powers when they're having sex. Her nails leave angry whelps as they rake across his back; she bites his shoulder hard enough to draw blood, then giggles as the skin heals right up.
Some nights, she yanks on his hair when he's too gentle, sinks her teeth into him if he's too nice, tells him to stop being so careful with her – "I won't break." When he doesn't give in to her, she shoves him off until he gets frustrated enough to slam her up against the wall, and then clothes are flying, objects are knocked to the floor, and he's bending her over and slamming into her from behind.
They're out on a mission when an error in his judgment results in the mangling of his entire body. When he finally wakes up, Claire's sobbing into his chest, begging him not to leave her, and he wonders how long he was dead to get her this worked up.
That night he takes her to bed and shows her just how sorry he is for scaring her. He caresses her skin, whispers reverently against the curve of her breast, soothing apologies and soft words of adoration.
All the other times, he's able to tell himself this is nothing more than sex, but now, he's painfully aware that he's making love to her.
He holds her close as his hips slowly grind into hers, and when she gasps and closes her eyes, he urges her to open them, makes her hold his gaze the entire time. Tears gather in her eyes and slip down her cheeks; she knows this is goodbye just as much as he does. They're in too deep, this was never meant to last, and the only thing to do is break it off before it breaks them.
It's just his luck that love is a dirty, tainted thing when he's the one who feels it.
He does his best to stay away from her after that, and she doesn't protest. They only time he sees her is when the rest of the family's around. Their conversations are now stilted and awkward, but no one else seems to notice.
Occasionally, their eyes accidentally meet, and the air sizzles around them, whispering of illicit deeds and forbidden want, and he has to stomp out the crazy urge to spread her out on the table and bury himself inside her.
He misses her; god, he misses her. More than her body, he misses the days when her expression was open for him, when he was privy to her every little thought. And he wonders if she misses him, too, if she regrets ever being with him, or if there's a storm of secret emotions raging beneath that pleasant smile she wears anytime he's around.
Over the next couple years, she has boyfriends, he has the occasional girlfriend, nothing serious, though he desperately wishes he could bring himself to let it be serious, anything to get rid of the poison of her running through his veins.
A while later, his mom nags him about not having settled down yet, and he brings a date over for dinner with the family just to satisfy her, but one look at Claire's hurt face and that's the last time he brings the woman over.
Finally, her parade of boyfriends stops; this new one seems determined to stick around. He's only met the guy a few times, but he hates him, hates the way he touches her out in the open, how he must take it for granted, as if touching her isn't the most precious gift in the world.
He wants to call foul, call the guy out and rage against him, let him know that's his girl he keeps pawing at. But then he remembers this is what he wants for her, that it's good that she's gotten over him, and he stands by and watches helplessly as all his touches are erased by another man's hands.
Time goes on, and Claire gets a diamond ring. And when they wind up alone together in Nathan's kitchen, he congratulates her and asks her if she's happy. When her only response is a noncommittal shrug, he chastises her, tells her marriage is a big decision and she should be sure this is what she wants.
Then she gives him a piercing look that cuts straight to the core of him and tells him, "If I can't be with who I want, then it doesn't really matter who I settle for."
His breath catches in his throat. He was so sure she'd forgotten all about him, that she'd chalked it up to some experimental phase, but that beseeching look on her face tells him she's just as hung up on him as she ever was. And that traitorous heart of his, the one that refuses to belong to anyone but her, thaws in his chest and sends the blood rushing through his veins.
She must see the change in him because she's suddenly closing the gap between them, the embers of hope flickering in her eyes. "If you want me, just say the word." She's so close, and he has to clench his fists against the urge to reach out for her. "We can run away together, go someplace far away where no one knows who we are."
It's so fucking tempting, to take what she's offering – it's all he's ever wanted, more than he's ever hoped for. But she's not thinking everything through, not weighing the consequences, considering the sacrifices she'd have to make: her family, her friends, the normal life she's always wanted – she'd be giving it all up, and he's just not selfish enough to put his wants before her needs. So he steels his heart and shakes his head. "We can't."
She holds his face in her hands and affirms, "Yes, we can."
But he averts his eyes and denies her again, then again, till she stops trying to convince him and falls into his chest, sobbing and beating her little fists against him, demanding that he give her what she wants.
But he keeps his arms firmly at his sides – if he moves his hands even the slightest bit, just a hint of a caress, it's over, he'll give in, take her and hide her away from the rest of the world, never let her go again. So he doesn't move, doesn't budge, can't yield at all, and she finally jerks away and lets the door slam behind her on her way out.
Once the door is closed, he says the words aloud for the first time, "I love you, Claire" and it doesn't matter that it's just a whisper because it's real and it's painful, and anything louder would've ripped his soul to shreds.
It's her wedding day, and he can't resist going to her one last time even though he knows he shouldn't. The dressing room door calls out to him, and it's his last chance to see her before he loses her forever, never mind that he's already lost her, that she was never supposed to be his to begin with.
She's standing with her back to the door, the bridesmaids flitting about, catering to her every whim, and when her eyes meet his in the vanity mirror, she asks the others to give her a minute alone.
Once everyone else is gone, he steps into the room and closes the door behind him, and the sudden intimacy of being alone with her, in this room, on this day, is more illicit than any other meeting they've ever had.
The air cackles between them with the need to be breached, and they stare at each other in the mirror for a long time before she finally pulls her curls to one side and presents her back, looks over her shoulder and asks him, "Can you zip me?"
The look in her eyes beckons him like a siren's song, and though he knows he shouldn't touch her, he closes the distance between them, anyway. She smells so good, and he steps closer to her than he should. Her breath quickens when he slowly skims his fingertips up along her bare spine, the zipper following in the wake of the caress, and he tries not to feel bitter that he's helping her get ready for someone else.
When his arms lower back down to his sides, she turns around to face him, her eyes shining with tears. "Tell me not to go through with this."
His heart aches in his chest; he's dying inside, but no evidence of it shows on his face. "You know I can't do that."
Her face crumples and her lip quivers, and she asks him brokenly, "Don't you love me?"
He sets his jaw; it'll only make it harder if he answers.
But she's determined to get something from him. "If things were different – "
"But they're not." His callous response sends more tears sliding down her cheeks, but thoughts like that will only draw out the pain; no sense in dwelling on what can never be.
But she doesn't seem to understand that. Her whole body trembles as she tearfully gazes up at him, "But what if they were?" and seeing her so small and fragile finally makes him crack.
He crushes her to him, brutally seizes her mouth for one last, desperate kiss, tastes the salt on her tongue, a bittersweet goodbye, commits her every detail to memory. Then he tears his lips away and whispers his answer harshly into her ear, "Then I would be the one waiting for you at the end of that aisle."
It's the closest thing to a love confession he can ever give her.
He jerks away from her and keeps his eyes fixed on the exit as he strides toward it, hears her broken little cries, her dress crumpling as her knees hit the floor, but he doesn't look back. He won't be strong enough to walk away if he does.
He sits in the bride's section, right beside the aisle in the front pew, and watches the groom fidget nervously with his cufflinks, and though he's always hated the guy, he's never hated him quite this much.
It's not long before the organ echoes through the church and the smiling people stand to catch the first glimpse of the bride in all her glory. Her arm is looped daintily around Nathan's as he proudly escorts her down the aisle.
She draws nearer and nearer, and his throat burns, his lungs caving in; the whole world is crumbling but no one notices but him, and then she's passing him by. She doesn't spare him so much as a glance as the skirt of her gown brushes along the tops of his shoes.
But when it's time to take her vows, it's his eyes she looks into when she says, "I do."
And then she's off to her honeymoon, and though he knows she was most likely having sex with the guy before, he has no doubt about it now, and the thought makes his chest hurt and bile rise in his throat.
And late at night, when it's just too much to take, he drinks himself into a stupor, and he's pretty sure he punches a wall at some point since he wakes up in the morning with bloodied hands.
But then her face appears in his mind – it's the only thing that's ever on his mind – and the broken skin knits itself back together.
Another year rolls by, and he's finally with someone new, a brunette – never a blonde, won't let himself pretend anyone else is her – and they've been together a while, but she's never met his family, wants to meet his family.
He puts it off for as long as he can, doesn't want Claire to see him with someone else, never mind that she's married, and it's the worst hell to see her with a husband – a title he can never have. He wants to spare her the pain, take it all for himself, and he bears his cross with a secret pride – it always was his destiny to save her.
It's time to introduce the new girlfriend to the family, and on the same night, it's announced that Claire's with child, not his child, never his child, and that's exactly why he couldn't keep her; he could never give her those things, such normal things she would've resented not having.
Everyone is fawning over her, passing her around, exchanging hugs and kisses. He forces himself to shake her husband's hand without breaking it, and finally, she's standing before him; it's his turn to offer best wishes.
For an endless moment, the world stops; they're back in their little bubble where nothing exists but them. The air between them is heavy with the weight of words left unsaid and things that could've been. But now's not the time for regrets – it's too late to change things, anyway.
In all sincerity, he tells her, "Congratulations, Claire. You'll make a great mom."
She looks up into his eyes, a tragic angel with fettered wings, then breaches the distance between them. She's in his arms again, and his whole body burns; her lips caress his ear as she whispers, "I could've done without children."
The words make his heart clench painfully in his chest. And even though he wants her to have this baby, wants her to have the life she's building for herself, he can't help feeling smug that a part of her still belongs to him, a part that the man she calls husband can never touch.
But the fact remains that she is having another man's baby, so for the next several months, he makes it a point not to see her at all.
He's in bed with his girlfriend when she calls.
She's crying into the phone, and he doesn't bother keeping his voice down as he tries to piece together what's wrong from her muddled words. She tells him she needs him, doesn't have to ask if he'll come, he's already pulling on his shoes.
His girlfriend sits up as he's getting dressed, and she asks him where he's going, and his only answer is, "Claire," as if that explains it all – and it does, because she's his reason for everything.
When he gets to her old room at Nathan's, he finds the rest of the family banished outside of it – the only one she lets in is him.
He learns that she's lost the baby, and he doesn't understand how that's possible with her healing, but she chokes and sobs through an explanation Mohinder gave her, and the only thing he can do is try to soothe her. He tells her everything will be okay, but she whispers back it won't. He tells her she can try again in the future, but she says she can't go through this again.
Then she tilts her face up to his and says, "Maybe I'm not supposed to have kids," and if there was any doubt about the meaning behind her words, the way she closes the space between their lips erases it.
It's been so long, and he's just not strong enough to tell her no this time. It doesn't matter at all that Nathan is right down the hall, that her husband is waiting in the other room. She's his, the ring on her finger be damned. Once they shed their clothes, he lowers himself into the cradle of her hips, and it feels like coming home.
The next day, when he's back in the bleak reality of his own apartment, he realizes that the situation is slowly killing them both. She'll never be happy until she lets go of him, but she won't be able to do that with him always around.
So he severs the ties that bind them.
He quits his job, breaks things off with his girlfriend, and travels off into the sunset where he throws himself into mastering his abilities, saving the world and all that goes with it.
He calls Nathan from time to time, just to check in, keep the family from getting too worried, and he forces himself not to ask about Claire, though anytime her name comes up, he remembers every word Nathan says. Those little tidbits – scraps of nothing, really – are the only company he keeps once the lights go out.
Nathan finally calls and asks him, "When's the prodigal son coming home?"
And he replies wryly, "After I'm done fulfilling my destiny."
Unamused, Nathan tells him, "It's time to stop wandering the world, playing hero."
So he responds, "There are still more people to save."
Nathan finally breaks out the big guns. "Claire really misses you."
And he has no answer for that one, can't let on that she's the reason he's staying away, that he's not coming back because there's a good chance he'll wind up fucking his niece again.
He goes to Florida during hurricane season – plenty of people who need saving there – and he stays long enough for Heidi to track him down and tell him of his brother's murder. Nathan was always rifling people's feathers, and apparently, he finally rifled the wrong ones.
He attends the funeral, though he stays at the back of the room during the service. There's a golden head of hair resting on Heidi's shoulder, but he forces himself not to let his gaze linger.
When everyone lines up to say their goodbyes, he files in along with them, and the line moves forward and forward till he's peering down at a lifeless face that's far more peaceful than Nathan's ever was. He covers his brother's brittle hands with his own, the tears burning his eyes as he chokes out, "I'm sorry."
I'm sorry for not being there to save you.
I'm sorry for not being the brother you needed.
I'm sorry for loving your daughter too goddamn much.
A comforting presence warms his side as a hand settles over his, and he knows it's her even before he sees her face. The sight of their hands clasping over Nathan's is more vulgar than the dirtiest things he's ever done to that body of hers, and it shames him to think of how completely he's failed his brother.
He slides his hand out from under hers – can't bear to touch her like this in Nathan's presence – and as he slips out of the church, he hopes she knows his apology extends to her, too.
Year after year, he goes to Nathan's grave just to catch a glimpse of her. He watches from afar as his family pays their respects and puts fresh flowers on the grave. Then one year, his mom isn't with them; a few years after that, Heidi's missing. He watches his nephews grow up, then age, occasionally bringing families of their own.
The years keep passing, people keep dying, and then the year comes when no one visits the grave but her.
She keeps on coming, and he keeps on watching.
His life has been nothing but a blur, a saved life here, a crisis averted there, and the only constant is their little tradition, secret clandestine meetings that only he knows are taking place. But he likes to pretend she knows he's there and that every year she comes just for him.
Years have gone by but he doesn't look a day older. He's long mastered his mimicry, knows how to use his empathy to sift through his stored abilities at will, but hers is the one power he can't turn off – he remembers how she makes him feel whether he wants to or not.
He sees her face and makes another cut, remembers her smile and carves banishing words into his chest. Each time his skin zips shut, white-hot rage wells up inside him, and he pushes the sharp edge harder against his flesh, again, faster and faster, frantic, frenzied cuts, deep, down to the bone, determined to win the race against her healing touch.
He jerks the blade across his throat and spills buckets and buckets of red across the tile, desperate to bleed her out of him, but she won't let him go, won't let him die, and he finally collapses to the floor, choking on his sobs, a soiled mess of blood and tears. Then the memory of her surrounds him like warm sunshine, and he cries even harder, so fucking grateful that she's still with him.
It makes him wonder if he's just a masochist, if he likes the pain, and then it's time for the annual visit to Nathan's grave, and that pretty much confirms it because nothing hurts so good as catching that stolen glimpse of her.
This year, when he goes to watch over her at Nathan's grave, the cemetery is empty.
He waits and waits, but she doesn't come. He makes up excuses for her: traffic is bad, she's just running late, something came up but she'll be here next year. He refuses to accept that she won't be coming anymore.
Venturing out of his hiding spot, he approaches his brother's grave and reads the headstone for the first time. He can't believe it's really been that many years since Nathan's been gone.
These little visits have been the only thing holding him together all these years, but now the stitching's coming undone, and he doesn't know how long he has before everything falls apart.
What he wouldn't give to see her face one last time.
Like an answer to a prayer, she's suddenly standing before him, just as beautiful as she ever was, though she still wears that sad little smile; he can't remember the last time she wore any other kind.
His heart races as she reaches up and cups his jaw in her hand, softly tells him, "I've been waiting for you," and he knows she's talking about more than just today. She's been waiting for years, decades, ever since the last of their family died, the forces keeping them apart reduced to decay and bone, even longer than that – her wait started the moment their bodies collided in that hallway at her old school.
But the wait is over now.
He's tried to fight it, tried to give her up, to do the right thing, but she's still there, just as imploring as ever, eyes so full of love, hoping this time he won't reject her, expecting him to all the same.
And for the first time, he realizes that nothing has been gained by staying away from her. He wanted her to have a happy, normal life with a husband and children, but that husband is long gone, as are her children if she ever had any, and normal was never an option for the indestructible, immortal girl. But most of all, he finally understands that her happiness is just as dependent on him as his is on her.
Everything he's ever done, it's all been for her, and when he takes her into his arms and clutches her to his chest, that's for her, too. If she needs this to stop hurting, if being with him really is the only way to make her happy, then that's what he's going to do.
Finally, after all this time, he lets her hear the confession he's kept secreted away. "I love you, Claire." And though it isn't really a secret at all – surely she must've known – she grips him tighter and starts to cry. The tears stream down her cheeks; her eyes are bright and her face is luminous, and he doesn't think she's ever been more beautiful.
"I love you, too, Peter," and he understands her urge to cry because tears are prickling behind his own eyes now, spilling over when she breaths against his throat, "I've loved you forever."
And he kisses her, right there on top of Nathan's grave. He can taste the tears in her kiss, and though it isn't the first time he's made her cry, it's the first time the sight doesn't leave his heart aching in his chest.
He sends one last apology to the man lying six feet beneath them, then lets the weight of the world lift from his shoulders. His heart feels lighter than it ever has, and he sweeps her off her feet and spins round and round, joyous, dizzying circles, and she tilts her face up to the sun and laughs.
And now the only guilt he feels is for making her wait so long. But he's going to make it up to her, going to spend the rest of his years, hundreds and hundreds of years, doing nothing else.
It doesn't matter if this is wrong anymore. He's spent over a century saving the world; he's paid his penance, he's served his time in hell, and he doesn't give a fuck if the Almighty isn't satisfied. He's going to live a longtime before his judgment comes, and her kiss is the only salvation he needs.