Stolen Moments
Moment Two:

Sometimes our moments are less ethereal, yet stolen all the same.

I remember that clear fall night, November 8, the night we almost ended. I had stayed in New York overriding the wishes of his mother. We didn't have time to celebrate our victory because suddenly everything was rushing us to that crucial date, the date Peter exploded. Foretold by a man with the power to paint the future, but not to save himself.

Peter's eyes had glowed, his body enflamed, but Nathan had managed to keep him with us at great cost. But he changed what could have, should have happened, and that night Nathan and I got him safely to his apartment and waited, anxious, for the recovery that never came.

"He'll pull through." My father had said. "Peter's strong, he'll get through this."

"I'm staying with him." I'd stuck out my chin, the way I used to do when my other dad had denied me a gift at the fair, or an extra strawberry sundae. Minus the hands on hips, I was that child again, stubborn and inflexible about this one thing I so desperately needed to do. For him.

"You can't stay here Claire." Nathan had hissed, careful to keep his voice down. I still don't know why; there was no one in the apartment with us. "You don't need to stay."

We had our first big fight that night, over Peter of all people. In the end I won out. I always did when it came to him.

I found him prone, curled on the bed, pathetically desperate and aching for comfort, comfort I knew I could give. I was glad I'd stayed, glad I knew what he needed. It was strange thinking Nathan was his brother and I was his niece. If anyone had the biological imperative to stay, it should have been Nathan.

But there was something more between us, between Peter and I, something stronger that transcended our biology.

His eyes had flickered when I touched him, pleading for him to come back to me. Nathan watched with hooded eyes, careful to stay outside our circumference of understanding. I think he understood what was between us that night for he's never questioned it since. He's ranted and raved, threatened and cajoled, but not once has he questioned my right to be by Peter's side, and his by mine.

I don't know when Nathan left, and didn't care. All I saw was Peter's flickering eyes, his presence wavering, aching to be anchored.

And so I crawled into his bed, onto the sheets that smelled so uniquely of him, manly yet gentle. Clean, comfortable and I slid across oh so easily. Turned him to face me with his face streaking with silent tears, shushed and hugged and held him like I knew he needed to be held. Held him close and allowed him to listen to my rapid heart beat, heard his sobs crescendo then soften, a symphony of heartbreak that sang only to me.

I was 16 and he was 26, but that hadn't mattered then. Our connection is distant, timeless, waiting neither for age nor biology.

There was nothing improper about that night, something we both feel relieved about. We never mention it again, the intimacy that sprang between us, but we feel it to this day.

Feel it in moments that don't belong to us, moments that we steal from reality.

It's Christmas and snowing in New York, really snowing and it's a revelation to my Texan eyes. Peter takes me to Central Park and I scoff at his sentimentality, then abruptly take it all back when I find myself in a winter wonderland.

"Oh Peter. It's gorgeous." He knew I hadn't seen snow before, not really. Deserts and sun drenched landscapes yes, parched brown dust dotted with murky green pines certainly, but not this. Snowflakes drifting down from the heavens to land on our noses, red from the cold and I sigh dreamily at it all.

"Glad you came? Not complaining anymore about putting 5 layers on to see this?" I don't mind his teasing; I deserve it, for ever doubting how well he knows me.

I nod emphatically and he doesn't so much as twitch when I slide my arm through his. He'd been careful to keep his distance since our first talk, but he isn't doing it now. Not since the night he'd exploded, the night that fused his life with mine.

We stroll in companionable silence through the frosty landscape, overhanging oaks waylaying us with handfuls of snow hanging off leafy branches. He's careful to steer me away from icy puddles on the ground, careful to keep a firm hold of me in this new and alien landscape.

"I'm not complaining." I watch in wonder as my breath spirals away in the crisp air, laugh a little at myself for being so childish. But he's strong and kind and oh so tender and he just watches me as I continue making a fool of myself, dancing and twirling, knee deep in snow. Giddy as a schoolgirl.

He laughs, a ringing laugh that somehow does nothing to emphasise how far apart in age we are. He hasn't laughed since that night a month ago and the warmth of it crawls into my bones, flows through my veins. It's heat and fire against chill and frost; the juxtaposition erupts in me.

Our eyes meet; the knowledge is still fresh in our minds. We belong and are one, but it's only the beginning of our lives together. The newness makes it unsullied and clean, the depth assures us it's always been there and always will.

I throw a snow ball at him and even with his superpowers, he doesn't quite duck in time. His glorious hazel eyes widen in surprise, shock, then just as quickly launches his own reply back at me. We dance and laugh and sing and giggle and attract the attention of two kindly old ladies who pause in their afternoon stroll to watch our shenanigans, until they tire of our mischief and continue on. Calmly and sedately, gaits matching wisdom and age.

I catch a stray comment as they pass. "What a lovely couple they are."

Peter hears it too and we colour and explode with laughter. They don't know, how right and wrong they are. We're a couple but we're not, never will be. It's something we both knew even then, know it more with certainty now. It's painful and heartbreaking but there's nothing for it, we were born to it. If we can't control our emotions we're not worthy of what we've been given and so we keep it hidden, showing it only in moments stolen from time.

His eyes are dancing and they're alight with fire, passion, serenity, a hundred thousand things all at once bubbling to the fore. I smile back and before I know it, he's cunningly stuffed a handful of snow down my shirt, before rubbing another handful across my face.

It's achingly cold and it stings and I reel from the shock. I find myself tackling and wrestling him to the ground because although I'm small, I'm tenacious, and that's something I learned from my real dad. He's caught by surprise and soon we're in an even more ludicrous predicament, rolling in the snow in the middle of Central Park like two kids instead of one full adult and one half-grown one, dealing with the drama in our lives.

We're panting and breathless, and finally he holds his hands up in surrender. I'm giggling and gasping for breath at the same time, lungs drawing delicious fresh air from the snow drenched landscape. "Okay, okay, I surrender." He's lying on top of me and if that's an unusual position, he doesn't let on. I pretend to not notice the pressure of his body on mine, the way certain parts of him press into me, the way I instinctively curl up at him, because it isn't important at the moment. I've travelled all this way to meet my hero and he's here, with me and alive, and that's enough. For now.

"You surrender?" I shriek as he rubs a final handful of snow into me, feel his shiver as I run my cold hands across his bare skin in retaliatory fashion. He gasps from the shock of it but he feels so raw, and hot, fire blazing from mended skin.

"I surrender." The smile drops off his face, replaced by a frown. I can hear his words before he says it, and it's the first time I notice how we can do that. It's weird and eerie, yet so completely us. "I surrender."

His surrender is a double edged sword. His face inches toward mine and suddenly I feel the world closing in and this isn't supposed to be happening. A girl isn't supposed to feel this way about her uncle, it's Wrong and Bad, but why? Why did we feel it, if it is so bad, so wrong?

He stops himself, lips mere inches away from mine. Shakes himself, shocked by what he was about to do. He's 26 and I'm 16 and that was already wrong. We're niece and uncle and it's incest, even I know that much. But why do we feel this way?

I lean up and kiss him, frozen cherry lips against his own. There's no mistaking my intention as my tongue slides into his mouth and suddenly his hands are streaking through my hair, our bodies pressed tightly against each other. Hearts beating in synchronicity; it was the first time I'd felt us echoing in each other, souls reverberating with deep seated need and longing.

"Stop, we can't." He's as breathless as I am and I can't say I couldn't sense it was coming. He's a hero and a gentleman and what we'd just done was neither heroic nor gentlemanly in his eyes.

My heart's still rapidly pumping, I still feel his lips on mine. If that feeling is wrong, do I want to be right? "Do you understand Claire? We can't. Not ever."

I can see disgust curdling his good mood and I don't hate him, I can't. He's right, but I already miss him. Miss what should have been. "I know."

He hears the heartbreak in my voice, sees the future we could have had, but for the accident of our births. "Claire?"

"I know." I say evenly, mystifying him by my calm acceptance. He can see through me and I him, and we both know with distinct clarity what we mean to each other. "It doesn't change anything." I say quietly, picking myself off the ground.

I don't bother explaining, because he knows. We'll always be together, in some shape or form. We were destined for it.

Author's Notes: This little piece has been sitting on my hard drive for a while with no home. I was going to trash it but then I rewatched an old episode of The West Wing where CJ Cregg talked about Friday being "take out the trash day" (or something to that effect), a day where the staffers dumped all the unnewsworthy stories. And for some reason I thought of this fic. Not that it's trash, this is my writing at its most lyrical, ethereal ... and long winded. But I enjoyed re-reading it, so I thought I'd post it anyway.