Disclaimer: I don't own Heroes or any of its characters.

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Bold—Thoughts

"Blah... Blah... Blah..."—Talking


Chapter 7: Exposed

Peter stared down at his latest design with disgust. He had a very important job to complete and he was scheduled to make his presentation in a couple of hours.

Damn it! There's no way I can present this drawing to the men coming in today, he let out a low groan. This has got to be the worst work I've created yet.

Tearing the sketch out of his drawing pad, he crumpled it up and tossed it across the room. Leaning back in one of the leather recliners he owned, he closed his eyes. He didn't want to acknowledge it, but the low hum within him had steadily become as loud as a beating drum. He had tried his best to ignore the loneliness that he had been feeling as of late, but it hung over him like a dark cloud—particularly, because Simone's death date was coming up and he knew that he couldn't just ignore it anymore or pretend that it didn't exist.

The truth of the matter was, her death was all his fault. At the funeral, when he covered her soft hand with his shaky one and peered down at her serene, lifeless face, he murmured a short, I'm sorry, tears burning the back of his eyelids and a lump in his throat—I'm sorry I wasn't good enough, I'm sorry I couldn't save you, I'm sorry for killing our child.

Moments later, Peter distinctly remembered her father, Charles Deveaux, warming his side and settling a hand over his own, silently forgiving him. That was when he felt shame overwhelm him because it reminded him of how he completely failed his father-in-law; the sight of their hands clasped over Simone's dead body was more vulgar than the dirtiest things he had ever done in his entire life and unable to stomach the sight anymore, he slid his hand out from under Charles' own and slipped out of the church, hoping that the older man would understand his apology extended to him as well.

Peter sighed and sat up, This bitterness is threatening to swallow me whole.

For a brief moment, the thought of seeking therapy crossed his mind, but he decided that therapists were for crazy people and he sure as hell wasn't crazy; just restless and in need of something he would probably never know again. Glancing at his watch, he let out a grunt when he realized it was five minutes to ten.

"Perfect," he whispered hollowly, glancing around his spacious home.

While it was huge and modern, with lots of glass and black leather, along with acres of white tiles, stainless steel appliances and geometrically patterned rugs, it was dark; there were dark curtains almost everywhere and recessed lighting—the place seemed almost cold and soulless.

I need to redecorate, Rolling his eyes when he realized his train of thought, Peter stood up, walked over to his closet and pulled out his coat.

Moments later, he was gripping his sketch pad as he descended the stairs of his home; he was hoping he would find some inspiration at work. Opening the rear door to the cab that he had called a few minutes prior, he climbed in.

"Where to?" The cabby asked, peering at him through his rearview mirror.

"Petrelli Designs, on West fifty-fourth and ninth," he answered curtly, slipping on a pair of sunglasses and leaning back in the seat.

"Yes, sir."

The cab coasted into open traffic and Peter could sense the burgeoning of butterflies deep in his gut, but he promptly ignored it. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and allowed himself a moment of peace.

x-X-x

Claire wrung her hands together nervously as she paced in front of the vanity mirror. She had shown up a lot later than she had originally intended because she had spent most of the night finishing the artwork for the deadline Peter had set for her. As she glanced at the clock, part of her secretly feared that she wouldn't be there in time to greet him. Before she could drive herself crazy with her own thoughts, however, the door to the dressing room finally opened. Claire's heart jumped into her throat and something akin to disappointment rose and fell as she turned to face Sylar.

She quickly shook the feeling off and offered a shaky smile, "Hey, Gabriel. You wanted to speak with me?"

He flashed her a dazzling smile, "Can I have a word with you in my office before you start your shift?"

A frown furrowed between her brows, "My... shift? What exactly do you mean? Don't I work tomorrow?"

He shook his head, "Niki's been feeling under the weather lately. So, I'll need you to cover for her. You don't mind, do you?"

He didn't give her a chance to reply as he continued, "This new client is highly respectable, so could you change into one of your outfits and meet me in my office in fifteen minutes? He'd like to meet the famous Kyra."

"I..." she bit her lip and then sighed softly. "All right."

He shot her another brilliant smile, but something about it looked cruel, "Good. I'll see you in a few."

He promptly shut the door behind him and Claire swallowed the feeling of disappointment that welled up within her as she met her gaze in the vanity mirror, "Well, I guess this means goodbye to the dream job. Hello, reality."

She sighed and shook her head, preparing herself for another round of humiliation as she zipped open her duffel bag and tossed it onto the dresser.

x-X-x

Twenty minutes later, Claire was seated in one of Sylar's plush chairs behind the desk as she casually observed the layout of his oval office. She had always loved his flare for taste since the decorum went for casual with an electric edge. The room was a mix of tan, grays and reds, complimenting colors that enhanced the aesthetic properties of the office.

Eight foot mahogany double doors stood at the entrance with a giant stone fireplace adjacent to them, tan couches sat at either side of the room, along with small pedestal tables accompanying each, a series of miniature chandeliers aligned on the lofty ceiling, a gray-red Rosetta stoned mini bar lay across from the fireplace and his black, marble desk sat towards the back of the room. The office was a stark contrast to the theme of his club and was a revitalizing deviation that Claire had no qualms about.

Folding her legs underneath her comfortably, she cleared her throat, "So, uh..."

"Is something wrong, Claire-bear?" Sylar asked curiously.

"Oh, no. Well, actually, I'm just curious as to who this new client of your is," she murmured, flushing underneath his scrutiny. "Is this why you wanted me to come in today? To meet this new client of yours?"

The corners of Sylar's mouth lifted, "Partially."

He then strode to his mini bar and poured himself a glass of brandy, "Can I get you something to drink? Scotch? Vodka? Apple juice?"

She quirked a brow, a light smile turning up at the corners of her mouth, "And why do you have apple juice in a club known for its exploitation of liquor?"

"Well," he began, pouring the tawny colored liquid into a glass. "It just so happens that I have one very important person close to me that dislikes the taste of alcohol."

He gathered both of the glasses in his hands and walked over to where she sat, "And I know that her favorite drink happens to be apple juice, so I always make sure I have some in stock."

"You know me well," she grinned, gratefully taking the glass of juice.

The hard shape of the glass struck a chord within her and she pursed her lips together, trying to recall why she was reacting to the shape of a glass cup. Something curled in her stomach as she remembered Peter's outer exterior towards her and for a moment, her blood began to heat.

Stop it, she thought furiously, grinding her teeth together. Stop thinking about him.

Downing the glass' contents without another moment's hesitation, Claire allowed the sweet nectar to cascade past the dry walls of her throat, "So, what's up?"

Leaning against the edge of the desk, Sylar finished his drink in one gulp and set the glass down beside him, his gaze refocusing on her, his eyes now absent of everything but concern, "Have you been feeling all right the last couple of days?"

Not knowing where he was going with this, she cocked her head to the side in question, "What do you mean?"

Lowering himself to the floor on one knee so that they were eye level, Sylar took her hands in his own, worry etched into his features, "I'm talking about that distracted look in your eyes. I know I've said that you're not entirely here at times, but you look unhappy. Are you unhappy, Claire-bear?"

Claire squirmed in the chair, uncomfortable with the matter at hand, as well as his proximity, all too aware of the heat emanating from his large, protective hands.

She swallowed audibly, "I, uh, why do you ask? Have there been complaints about my performances?"

"No, it's not that. I'm worried about you. You don't..." he hesitated, fishing for the right words. "You haven't been yourself as of late."

He held up a hand to quiet her before she could speak, "Don't try to deny it because I can see it in your face when you're both offstage and onstage."

I can't believe this. First, he has an effect on my school work and now on my work.

Careful to not reveal her bitter thoughts from displaying outwardly, she settled for looking at her lap, "I've been really stressed out with balancing work and finishing up my artwork for Mr. Petrelli's review."

"Are you sure that's the problem?" Flinching slightly as he touched the side of her face, she lifted her gaze and met his quizzical eyes. "Are you sure that you're not... bothered by my close proximity?"

"I, uh, no," she answered, still squirming uncomfortably.

"Well, then, let's test that theory, shall we?" He scooted closer until she could feel his breath on her face.

"Wha–what are you doing?" She stammered nervously.

He didn't answer her and she suddenly felt a sudden pull on her head; the red wig she wore was tugged off of her scalp roughly, letting her slightly curled blonde locks fall over her shoulders. The room was eerily quiet for a moment and then all hell broke loose.

Claire was too shocked to speak and when she heard a sharp intake of breath, her throat tightened painfully. Turning her head to the open mahogany doors, she met the bewildered and hurt gaze of a very familiar man.

Her chin quivered briefly, her mind still foggy with the recent stunt Sylar had just pulled.

"Oh, God," she managed. "Pe–Peter?"