Title: "Stolen Moments: Moment One, Home"
Summary: Can sweet moments stolen between shifting pieces of a life ever make up for a lifetime of longing, espcially if that lifetime could last forever?
Spoilers: to 1.19 .07
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, just borrowing. All NBC's and Tim Kring's. Please don't sue!
Author's Notes: Canon, non-AU. Inspired by the Peter/Claire scene in 1.19 .07, in which Claire tearfully confessed. "I didn't even get to know you." For some reason that got my mind going, about the nature of their connection. Not necessarily definable as lovers, or uncle/niece, or family, or friends. This is the product of that inspiration. Let me know what you think.
Story Note: I've extrapolated a little regarding Peter's powers, adding another one to his growing repetoire. So don't be confused when that particular power rears its head, I haven't lost my marbles. ;-)
Feedback is love!
I watch him across the table, dark hair falling over his face, eyes crinkled from lack of sleep. He's munching absently on muesli and what I think is yoghurt – all natural, smelly, acidy yoghurt from the deli downstairs. He's a health freak and I remember it's one of the first things I noticed about him, other than the tendency to rush headlong into danger and becoming a hero.
I chew absently on a strand of hair, wishing for the umpteenth time it was more like his. His hair is truly something to die for, raven tendrils that frame his face, setting off eyes the colour of a hazel sunset. Sensitive hands complementing a sensitive heart, although he'd laugh if he caught me thinking that.
We're related, but it doesn't show. Nothing about us is the same, except for what's inside. Maybe that's why we're so close. Unnaturally close, Heidi would say. I refrain from calling her my step mom because I know she'll hit the roof, literally, if that ever happened. Same with Angela, who once visibly shuddered when she heard 'grandma' and even I couldn't imagine calling her that again. There's something decidedly un-grandma like about her.
Although Nathan's more than willing to give 'Dad' a test run. I wasn't keen on the idea, so he let it go. I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I already have a dad, who'd been willing to sacrifice his life to save mine. I can't betray him by bestowing his title on anyone else, even if it is to someone as deserving as Nathan.
We sit across the table, so close, yet so far. Every day I watch him, and he watches me, like some silent, unending dance only we know the steps to. We've been dancing for five years, five long years that has seen us settle into our lives. Become the people we were meant to be, live the lives that were predestined for us.
I've become well and truly part of the family. If there are flashes of resentment from Heidi, it's quickly brushed away by her love for Nathan. Appearances at birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgivings and Christmases no longer raise eyebrows. We've seen each other's boyfriends and girlfriends come and gone, college has flown by, and I've lived in Paris just like Angela always wanted. Giving me time to decide what to do with my life, whether I truly wanted to be part of this madness as she calls it. finding out that I well and truly did.
And so I came back, to him. But not just because of him. I chose this life for me and me alone. But if that life came with being with him, fighting alongside him, it was a bonus I'd been careful to keep to myself. I don't know how successful I've been at hiding and sometimes I catch Nathan looking at us like he's almost stumbled onto our secret and wishing he hadn't. It's usually only there for the slightest moment before it melts, giving way to shining resignation. As if he's willing to accept almost anything, if only to have his family alive and by his side. If that family includes a daughter and brother not knowing their proper places, so be it.
Peter's eyes shone when he'd glimpsed me walking up the driveway, bags in hand, after Paris. We'd kissed and hugged as relatives do, and everything there is and was between us rushed back to the surface. But it had never really been hidden. That thing, that connection between us, so timeless and perfect, the bane of our existence, that bittersweet torture that at once melts in your mouth and curdles your insides. It is everything and nothing, a connection that meanders through time and space and everything in between.
If we're not as happy as we should be or as comfortable with the status quo, we're careful to not let it show. At least to our family.
Because it truly is our family. We're related and it creates an unending bond between us, a tangible connection that supports what we've known all along. But it's also a millstone around our necks, a curse and a burden that will forever be ours and ours alone.
What we have are these. Stolen moments, embalmed forever in perfect, crystalline memory. What we have is each other and if that isn't enough, I'm not sure what else there can be.
"Claire?" He asks, catching my stare. He waggles his eyebrows, wanting to make me laugh but it's one of those moments when my heart breaks just looking at him. Seeing so plainly what was both good and wrong about my life. His breath hitches and he casts his mind through mine, sifting through my thoughts, perfectly at home in me.
My heart sings because he's in me – in me – like he should always be. In these stolen moments we're one, we're whole, and nothing can come between us.
The sensation's odd, but addictive. He's found some other way to be inside me, of making our connection whole, besides the way that was Wrong, and Bad. It's been so many years and I've conditioned myself to think of it that way, of it being Wrong and Bad, and that lessens my torment a little.
Only a little. In the witching hours of the night it comes back. Haunts me in dreams, spectres of a life that should have been rising up and it's only then I can get release from the pressure, the claustrophobic repression that I'll cling to for the rest of my unnaturally long life.
He sees. He feels what's inside me, and it's always the same. Happens over and over, and the sensible, rational thing for us should be sever all ties, forget this tenuously insistent connection that so binds us, dictates our passions and feelings, made of us its slaves. Second after second, minute after minute, day after day.
We should sever that bond, but we don't. Have only ever once contemplated separating our existence. That had been an experiment, something neither of us were keen to replicate. Every once in a while Angela tries, and Heidi as well. We don't budge, not even at Nathan's insistence. Our intimacy is incomprehensible to everyone besides ourselves, and that's the way it should be.
I know the others suspect. Illicit feelings are hard to hide amongst family and close friends. But we've never crossed that line, we can't. We need each other too much to destroy what we have, even at the risk of our sanity. It's more than a question of morality, it's a question of love, and choice, and what we've chosen is a half life. But it's a half life with each other, and we take what we can get.
Stolen moments are all we have.
"Claire." He breathes, and I can almost feel his breath brush against my ear. His touch is light and soft as a feather, tickling my insides like silken thread against freshly washed skin. I adore that feeling, of his thoughts twisting into mine, melding us into one being that awakens in each other's embrace.
"I feel you."
"I know." I feel his laugh, golden sunshine breaking through clouds after a summer storm and its delicious, wonderful and oh so warm. "Where shall we go today?"
My giggle sounds girlish even to my own ears and I forget for a while where we are. Where we've been. "I want to go to the beach." I demand impishly, reaching out to trace lazy circles on his arm. "Take me to the beach Peter."
His breath hitches at the touch and I have to catch my breath. His excitement courses through me, because we are one and he feels me, and I feel him. We feel everything about and in each other. "You're a Texas girl. Why the beach?"
I close my eyes and suddenly we're there, together, at a beach next to a pier. I recognize its somewhere near Santa Monica although I've never been there. I've never been anywhere near the West Coast but it's from a postcard that Peter keeps in his room, on the wall. He's got a collage of places he loves and his voice rings to me from the vaults of my memory. It's sweet and true, telling me how he'd take me there one day, when time permitted. I knew then that we'll get there one day, because time is all we have, times doesn't matter to people like us. "Do you like it?"
"Is it –?"
He nods. "Santa Monica." He takes my hand and there's nothing to distinguish it from the real thing, and sometimes I catch myself wondering whether this is more real than life on the outside. When inside we've got each other and there's nothing standing between us, forever tearing us apart. Sometimes I wonder whether this is truly reality, and the other life a dream.
Perhaps I am a butterfly dreaming of living as a girl. "It's beautiful."
"It's sunset. Look at the pier." He's pointing and my eyes drift towards a glorious sunset, heady mix of flaming red and orange that streaks through an azure blue and purple sky. It's a kaleidoscope of colours that lights my heart on fire, because they're the perfect backdrop to being with him.
Peter leans in, plants a chaste kiss on my lips. He lingers there for just a second too long, but we're careful to draw back. There's a line that we can't cross and that's okay. For now. Because we have our moments, these precious stolen moments in time that we steal for ourselves and keep hidden because it's who and what we truly are, forever and always, together.
I remember the day when we came full circle. He'd saved me in Odessa and I finally had the chance to return the favour. Out of the bitter ashes of grief I'd found my guiding light, my saviour. It was the day the world opened up for me again, and I'd found something else to fight for.
My heart had shattered into a million pieces seeing him so still, so lifeless. He who had thrown himself off a building for me, gone before I'd had a chance to really know him. I wanted to rant and rave at the injustice. Even though it wasn't the first time I'd come across the world's cruelty, it was the first time I'd really wanted to give up. What was left in the world worth fighting for when my hero, this man who'd made me feel so safe and warm, was gone?
I couldn't bear to look at the blood splattered all over him – his face, his hands, through his mass of dark, glossy hair. He'd been the only one that'd made me feel safe, the only one left I could count on. And now he was dead, eyes milky with frozen death and I grieved knowing that I never got the chance to know him.
But he wasn't gone, and I got the chance to save him. The damsel in distress returning the favour to her knight, and everything came full circle. I hadn't even known I was crying until he gently wiped a single tear away, gazed at me with wonder in his eyes. "You saved me."
"Now we're even."
Afterwards, he'd come gently into my room, a place I'd been dumped into by who I thought then was an uncaring, unfeeling woman. She was my biological grandmother but was hardly worth the title, not really. She'd hidden my existence from my biological family and was intent on whisking me away to another unknown life, just when I'd found my touchstone.
He sat beside me on the bed, followed my gaze out the window into the bright sunshine of the world outside. A world I was strangely disconnected from. "You're here." I felt him exhaling into the silence and for some reason, it warmed me, like nothing had since I'd been forced to say goodbye to my dad. My real dad.
"I came to see you." In the aftermath of drama, it sounded so ludicrous, so naïve. What had made me travel all this way, fight against the forces tugging me to another life, just for a chance to see this man? "I thought –"
How could I explain the absurdity of a delusional 16 year old mind? But I hadn't needed to, because he'd understood. Peter always understood. "I'm glad you did." His hand covered mine, as if that was the most natural thing in the world for him to do. His voice came as a whisper, tendrils of promise spiralling towards me, breaking open the clouds that had plagued me for months. "I didn't know."
He hadn't needed to say more, because I understood him. I always would. "I know. Your mom … she told me. Not even Nathan knew. He thought I'd died when I was a baby." I began babbling then, a small girl's babble, haltingly told him of everything that had happened since we'd last met. Odd to think that we'd only met in the most unusual of circumstances, when our meetings had always been so natural. "The Haitian man, he wanted to take me to France. I don't know why. I just knew – I just knew I needed to see you again. I didn't know we were, you know."
Something like a smirk crossed his face. "Related."
It had been the first time I'd noticed his grin, that unique lop sided grin that transformed him from a tired man into a young boy. "Yeah."
He reached out, carefully brushing stray strands of hair off my face, did it ever so slowly as if I was made of glass. We both knew I wasn't, yet I was, because I'd almost been broken by everything that'd happened. "You've been so much. Claire, you're not alone anymore. You're with family now, with us." Our breath had hitched as one, almost as if we were living our lives in synchronicity.
"With me." I wasn't sure whether they were his words, or mine. And in a way, it ceased to matter after that moment.
"Nathan doesn't want me here." I disliked the bitterness creeping into my voice when I'd just heard such a wonderful promise from the man sitting next to me. My uncle, but he didn't feel like it. Same as Nathan didn't really feel like my father, because my father was a tall man with horn-rimmed glasses who I'd been forced to leave behind in Texas. "Your mom doesn't want me here. She's shipping me off to Paris, to live a normal life."
And suddenly the irony of it hits me like a sledgehammer. Be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true. I'd wished so hard for a normal life and here it was, begging to be lived. But I didn't want it, not anymore.
Something like fury crossed his face, before he stilled again. Like a sudden gust of wind reaping havoc on the surface of a crystalline lake on a summer's day. Unnaturally calm, and looking back I recognise he was thinking hard, carefully framing his words. "I'll talk to Nathan. He'll see sense. You have to stay." It was only then I'd realised he was still holding my hand and I was grasping it tightly, not wanting to let it go. "I need you to stay." He'd squeezed out, almost as if the words had been too dangerous for him to admit.
They were the words I'd so desperately wanted to hear, even if I hadn't known it a moment before. He saw my eyes shining with fresh tears, relieved and excited to find someone else out there, like me. And when he folded me into a hug I sink gratefully into him. It'd been like returning to a home I'd always known, pieces of a puzzle that finally slid into place to complete a picture that had been right in front of me, waiting to be seen.
I'd felt safe and warm, and I'd never wanted to leave.
"Are you like me?" I asked softly, eyes turning up to meet his. They're hazel, much lighter than I'd imagined them to be, all those weeks after we'd met. Perhaps it was from the sunshine streaming through the windows or from his form haloed by the pool of light from behind. But they were soft, gentle, hazel orbs that shone with intensity and brightness. Shades of understanding mirroring his soul. "You can heal, like me?"
He nodded, shifted slightly so he faced me, hand sliding down to the small of my back. "Sort of. I mimic people's abilities. I got the healing from you." He emphasised his words by unconsciously pressing against me. "I got flying from Nathan." He sees my reaction, wonder swirling into girlish delight. "That's right. Nathan can fly."
I exhaled, only realising then how tense I'd been. I'm grateful when he smiles fondly down at me, and I feel comfortable enough to rest my head on his shoulder. Breathing the moment in, because I'd come all this way, to see my hero with the bright, sensitive soul who'd died for me those weeks ago.
After a while the silence became oppressive, the emotion too heavy for such a bright fall day. We're both sniffling and I find myself inhaling his scent, a freshly showered scent, all alpine smoothness and something else that I know now to be uniquely him. Felt his skin soft against my own where our arms and hands brushed, felt his hair mingle with mine. Darkness and light, but everything complemented and slid into place like it was always meant to be. "So I guess that makes you my uncle or something."
He winces, severing our touch. "Yeah, I guess it does." He scratches his chin, sweeping hair off his face. "And … you're my niece. Nathan's daughter. We're related." He withdraws his arms and I want to whimper at their absence but I hold back. It wasn't natural to crave a person so much. "We're related." He repeated.
"Yeah, we are." I didn't like the look in his eyes. Confusion, where there should only have been clarity. "Peter, is something wrong?"
"No, not wrong." He muttered.
His eyes are averted and I sense – what did I sense? I wasn't sure then, but I am now. It was confusion, wonder, regret of I knew not what. "I'll talk to Nathan. We need you to stay. To save New York. To save us." His smile returned then, mixed with a sombreness that hadn't been there a moment before. Gave me a soft kiss on the cheek, lingering just long enough for my heart to skip a beat.
It was then I knew the truth of our connection. I knew his confusion, his wonder, his regret. We were together, we were related, we were whole. We were meant to be, but would never be.
He stood, traced a finger over my cheek, like tracing himself a memory that would last forever. He'd smiled and walked out, presumably to talk to Nathan.
I swore I heard him whisper as he went. "I need you to stay."