Summary: (PeterClaire) Claire's jealousy of the newly returned Simone causes a conversation with Peter that she had never thought possible.
Notes: Came to me when I was thinking about one of my favorite Jammy (Jonathan and Tammy from Guiding Light) scenes from a couple years ago. I borrowed a couple of the lines.
Setting: Claire is 18, and a freshman at college.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I'd say that about covers it.
Warning: Cesty Paire
Claire hadn't meant to respond so sharply. She had simply been taken off guard by Peter's words...not to mention the huge tidal wave of jealousy that had nearly knocked her over with its immense force.
"I said, 'Simone is back,'" Peter repeated happily.
"That's amazing, Peter. I know how much you missed her," Claire forced out, bending down to pick up the pencil she had dropped in shock a few seconds before.
He nodded. "Mohinder worked with Hiro to find a way to get him back there in perfect time to save her. She's actually been back for a couple days, but they just told everyone a few hours ago -- you know, during the meeting you had to miss because of your business class. And we're going out now. To celebrate."
If Claire had been jealous before, she didn't even know what it was that she was feeling now. She tried to concentrate on copying the passage from her textbook without snapping the pencil in half.
"Well, have fun." She looked up at him and smiled. Well, clinched her teeth so hard she was surprised they didn't shatter and pulled her lips back, anyway. The gesture felt incredibly unnatural, and she hoped that he didn't notice.
"Okay," Peter turned to leave, but paused. "Sure you don't want to come with us?"
Oh yeah. That was what she wanted to do; be the third wheel while the two of them laughed about old times over pizza or whatever, and then watch them kiss goodnight...
Claire didn't think so. "Thanks, but I have a ton of studying to do."
"I remember those days," Peter grinned. "See you later, then."
The moment the door closed behind him, Claire threw her pencil across the room to the couch, where it landed with a very dissatisfying and barely audible thud.
Later that evening, Claire was standing on the roof of Peter's apartment building. She loved it there; she could just stay in that spot for hours. It was amazing how a place where you overlooked a city of millions could be so solitary and peaceful. At the moment, the sun was setting, orange, pink, and purple streaks mixing and mingling to form a vibrant, beautiful kaleidoscope of color.
She heard the door to the roof opening but didn't bother to turn around.
"There you are," Peter's voice said from behind her.
"Here I am." She hadn't turned around, still staring at the sky.
She heard him walk over to stand beside her, and she could see the edge of his profile in her peripheral vision.
"You're back early." Claire hoped the bitterness wasn't too obvious in her voice. She had come up here nearly half an hour ago to get some peace. It hadn't worked. Instead, her head had just been filled with images of him and Simone. The two of them eating, laughing, gazing, kissing...
"We just went out as friends, Claire. Nothing more."
The statement was completely out of left field; she didn't even know why he had said it. He hadn't read her thoughts; they had come to an agreement long ago that he would never do that without her permission.
"Is something wrong? Do you feel okay?" Concern laced the soothing tone of his voice.
"You're not acting fine."
"Well, I am."
"Claire, what's wrong? You usually tell me everything. Well, not everything, but at least when something's bothering you." His voice was still concerned, but it was now tainted with hurt.
Dang it. She didn't want to hurt him. A small part of herself tried to convince the rest that she did; that because she was hurting, then he needed to be too. She was too much of a compassionate person, however, to listen to that tiny part.
"It's nothing, really." She turned to face him then, another meretricious smile plastered onto her face. "Why are you back so soon? Didn't you have the whole evening planned out?"
Why on earth was she pursuing this, exactly? Claire wasn't quite sure. She just couldn't think of anything else to say, and she felt that the silence needed to be filled with spoken words, no matter how tawdry or boring or painful. Anything was better than his poking and prodding -- albeit, with the best of intentions -- at her sensitive emotions.
"We did," he affirmed.
She turned back to look at the sunset. "So..."
"Why are you so curious?" Claire was aware that he had shifted ever so slightly, and his shoulder now brushed lightly against hers. She was aware of everything about Peter; always was. She could even catch the faint scent of his cologne wafting towards her in the slight evening breeze. The person for whom he had worn it didn't change the fact that it was, in Claire's opinion, on of the best smells in the universe. The only things right up there with it were Peter when he first got out of the shower -- that was her all-time favorite -- and freshly baked cookies or cupcakes.
"No reason. I'm just making conversation."
"Since when do you and I just make conversation? We talk, Claire."
"Okay, then, what do you want to talk about?" She asked, turning to meet his gaze.
"Why are you acting like nothing's wrong? I know there's something."
"Maybe," she admitted.
"Care to expound?"
"Does it have to do with me?" he asked hesitantly.
"No." But she couldn't quite bring her eyes to make contact with his when she said it.
"It is," The injured tone was back, this time stronger, and it tore at Claire's conscience that she was doing this to him. She wished she were a better liar; that she could just lie her butt off to him that everything was fine -- no, she wasn't in love with him; no, she didn't long to tear Simone's head apart from the rest of her body when she hadn't even met the woman; no, no, no.
But she wasn't.
"Claire, if I did something...I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to."
"You didn't do anything, Peter," she sighed.
"I don't understand."
"But it has to do with me."
"I never said that."
"Your eyes did."
She could think of no response to that.
"Claire, please tell me. Does it have to do with Simone? Because you've been acting kind of strange since I told you about her this afternoon..." he trailed off, dark eyes widening in comprehension, "You're jealous."
"No, I'm not," she scoffed.
"You are too."
"Am not!" she argued hotly, feeling like a petulant four-year-old, but not really caring.
"If you say so."
But his eyes made it obvious that he didn't believe her.
"Why would I be jealous? I have no reason." That he knew of. Or maybe he did. There had been times she could have sworn he felt it too. She had always convinced herself that they was merely figments of her desperate imagination. But, God, it had seemed so real every time -- there had been three, in all -- where the tension was so palpable that she almost knew that he could feel it. His eyes had become completely unreadable, but they had been smoldering with...with something.
She truly hadn't believed that the looks -- if they had truly existed -- were real. But had they been?
"Because she's taking up time that I would usually spend with you."
Oh. So that was all he meant. Well, that would be a good excuse for her behavior. Childish, but a hell of a lot better than admitting what was really the matter.
Claire felt incredibly stupid for even considering that those moments had been anything but phantom chimeras of her own making.
"I guess...maybe a little," she conceded.
Her eyes flew to his.
"What? I just agreed with what you said!"
"Like I said, you lied."
"I said I was jealous."
"And you are. But not because of the time she's been taking up. You're jealous because of what you think we've been doing."
"No, I'm not." Claire cursed the flush she could feel creeping over her cheeks.
"Admit it. There's something between us, Claire. You know it. I know it."
What?! What was this? What was he trying to do to her? Months -- no, years -- of not even the tiniest hint of acknowledgment that he felt it as well -- apparently he did -- and now he was just delving right into it, like it was no big deal. Well, it was a big deal. A huge, giant, monumental deal.
"No." She wasn't sure if she was denying it or simply begging him to stop before she lost her self-control. Claire did not even know exactly what she needed it for right now, but she was sure there was a very large chance that it wasn't good.
"What?" He was giving up, already? Had he just not practically forced her to admit to everything that was between them? Had her denial simply thrown him?
"Then let me kiss you."
"What?" That word seemed to be the extent of her vocabulary in the last minute, but she couldn't think of anything else to say. She hadn't been expecting that. In fact, she hadn't been expecting any of this. Peter was playing some kind of game, and she hadn't the faintest idea of what the rules were.
She was the cat, and he was a string in the hands of a sadistically playful child; dancing, twirling, jumping. Where, she never knew, and she could try as she might, but she couldn't catch up with him.
"Let. Me. Kiss. You."
She gave up any thought of denying her feelings, then -- what would be the use? -- and simply resorted to being on the defensive.
"Peter, you know we can't."
"Claire, I'm not asking for a relationship with you. I'm not asking you to run away with me or to sleep with me," A shiver rolled down Claire's spine at his words, and she struggled against letting a mental image of them invade her thoughts. "All I'm asking for is a kiss. Just one kiss," he whispered, leaning forward until their mouths were barely an inch apart.
"Why do you do this to me?" she whispered, her gaze focused on his mouth.
"What are you talking about?"
"You know what I'm talking about."
"Yeah," His voice darkened dangerously, and his face loomed even closer. "I do."
Then somehow, she was standing on her tip toes, bringing her lips to his. The moment they touched, it was exactly like she had always thought it would be, only...not. Because it was better. A thousand, a million, a trillion times better. A zing of electricity, a burst of heat, a wave of immeasurable sensations. He kissed her back immediately, and it was like nothing Claire had ever felt in her life. His lips devoured her own like he was a man condemned and she was his one and only hope of salvation.
She had been kissed before, but not like this.
Never like this.
Never with someone she cared so much about, someone she longed to have, but knew that she couldn't.
That was probably why this kiss was so amazing. Because they could never do it again.
God, they couldn't do it again.
She couldn't do this. Once the kiss ended, it would be back to life as normal. It would be back to just Peter and Claire, heroes, friends. Relatives. If she let this go any farther, if she had truly experienced everything that she and Peter could be together, it would just increase a thousand fold the hurt she would feel when it couldn't happen again.
Claire pushed him away, but only enough to separate their mouths. His eyes filled her vision, his forehead pressed against her own.
"Go," she panted out, "Leave."
"No," he responded.
"Simone." It tore at her heart to say the word, but he had to leave. Now.
His eyes darkened. "I just showed you. I. Don't. Want. Simone."
At that his lips crashed down on hers, and she was lost. Lost to the fire ebbing through her veins, humming, singing, throbbing faster and faster. Urgently, he gripped her skull, tangling his fingers in her locks, pulling her closer, closer, closer still.
She kissed him back with all she had, not at all sure of what she was doing, but that almost made it better. She returned his kiss with fervor, exuberance more than outweighing her lack of experience.
She drew his tongue into her mouth, ran her teeth lightly across his bottom lip. He moaned in encouragement, and she couldn't help but do the same when his lips left hers and trailed kisses all down her neck...her collarbone...before returning to her mouth, as if he couldn't bear to be away from it for too long.
She ran her hands up and down his torso, finally slipping underneath his shirt to feel the heated skin.
"Claire, no," His reaction was immediate, voice rough, his hand shooting down to stop her.
Her lids sprang open, and she saw the determination in his. She drew back, more than a little hurt. Of course he didn't really want her.
Tears filled her eyes and she turned blindly, looking for the door before Peter caught her arm.
She spun back around. "Why the hell not, Peter? You want her. Always have. Always will. Go! Be with her, what do I care?"
"I only want you, Claire."
"Oh, and your way of showing that is by pushing me away?"
"You want to know why I stopped?" His voice was still at a normal register, but the intensity of it made it seem like he was yelling. "Because I knew that if things had gone one step further, I wouldn't have been able to. At all. It wouldn't have mattered that anyone could find us at any second. Hell, it wouldn't have mattered if we were in the middle of Times Square."
Claire couldn't seem to find the words to respond to that.
"I only asked you for one kiss. I knew it couldn't go beyond that."
"But it could! Peter, it could!" The tears were back, clouding her vision, stinging the backs of her eyelids as she tried to keep them in check. Something inside of her had changed sometime during that second kiss. She didn't just loathe the thought of going back to the way things were, anymore; she didn't think she would be able to.
"No, it couldn't."
"Why not? You want more. I want more. There's no reason what other people think should stop us."
"What, Claire?" His tone was harsh; he had obviously thought this over as many times as she had. The only difference between them at the moment was that he was being too rational for his own good. "What is it you want to do? Sneak around with me, kissing in dark allies and locked bedrooms, never letting the rest of the world see what we mean to each other?" he scoffed.
"Yes! I don't care, as long as I'm with you."
"We would get caught. All secrets come out eventually."
"So, we'd be extra careful."
"You know what, Peter, you're the one who started this, so you don't get to chastise me for wanting more. Especially when you want it, too."
"You know what I want?" The leash that had been his hold on his self-control snapped, and Claire would have been scared of the passion in his eyes if it hadn't been so hypnotizing. "I want to kiss you in public. I want to make love to you from sunset to sunrise, until we're both so sore we can't even move to get out of bed. I want to tell the whole world how much I love you."
"How much you what?" Claire couldn't form any words beyond that.
"How much I love you."
The tears were starting again, damn it. She usually wasn't such a cry baby, but there was something about Peter; when she was around him, her emotions always seemed to hover near the surface. Unfortunately, it meant she could become hurt -- or, apparently, jealous -- easily. It also meant, though, that happiness could be reached with just as little effort. And these were tears of happiness.
"I love you, too," she whispered, leaning forward until her face was buried in the crook of his neck. His arms wrapped around her, his head resting atop hers, and Claire breathed in deeply, memorizing the feeling of the simple, pure intimacy of the moment.
"Claire," he began, but she stopped him with a gentle finger to the lips, stepping back enough to remain in his embrace but still be able to make eye contact.
"I know what you said earlier. But Peter, I...don't think I can go back."
He smiled a little, and Claire couldn't tell if it was a smile of sadness, happiness, or both.
"That's good. Because I know I can't."
"So...what do we do now?"
"As much as I would love to say kiss..." he smirked, "we really need to talk."
"What about? Peter, I love you. You love me. No one can ever know. It's pretty simple."
"I know...I just need to be absolutely positive that you do, too. I couldn't live with myself if you somehow got hurt by this." The emotional turmoil in his eyes seconded his declaration.
"I'm a big girl, Peter. There's no need to patronize me."
He smiled, but it was only half-hearted. "You know that wasn't what I meant."
"I know," she assured softly. "I also know that if I somehow manage to get hurt -- which would never be your fault, so don't ever blame yourself. I mean it. -- then it would be worth it. All I want is you, Peter. You're all I've ever wanted."
"You're amazing, Claire," Peter said, and this time, his eyes were also shining with a thin layer of moisture.
"And so are you. My hero," she smiled up at him, and this time the grin that turned up his lips was filled with unadulterated happiness.
Her smile intensified at his words, and she brought her arms up to rest on his shoulders, fingers intertwining behind his neck.
"Say it again."
He leaned forward, lips brushing against her ear as he whispered it. The action wasn't meant to be seductive, but tender, reverent, and incredibly intimate.