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The next day was sunny, and Peter opened the curtains in his room for the first time in two months.
The light from the window filtered over the body of a lovely girl who was currently tangled up in his sheets.
She was perfect. He liked how she looked, naked, in his bed. Like she belonged there. Her body was lightly tanned and beautifully shaped. Her lips were slack with sleep, and her small fingers clung to her pillow.
He slipped back into the bed, and leaned against the headboard. It was early; but he didn't feel tired, even though he'd scarcely slept the night before.
Claire sighed and snuggled to his side.
He no longer needed sleep, or food, or any other sort of mortal sustenance. He had Claire, and that was enough.
Last night had been…incredible. And incredibly painful in many ways.
Everything had changed.
He reached down to the girl curled up against him, her hair spilling over his chest and waist. He brushed her bangs off of her forehead, and she shifted in her sleep.
Everything was still the same.
Claire's eyelashes, so dark, fluttered and she rolled onto her back.
"Hi," said Peter.
Peter slid his hands under the sheets, and over her torso. He kissed the side of head, then down her neck.
"Why're you awake," she said groggily.
"Because it's morning," said Peter, as he kissed the cleft of her collarbone.
Claire yawned with her hands above her head, and rested them over his shoulders. "It's too early."
Claire cracked one eyelid at the clock next to his bed.
"It's nine. That's early," said Claire.
He rolled to crouch over her. "Maybe for lazy teenagers," teased Peter.
Claire opened both of her eyes, slowly. She looked above her, at Peter and then smiled. "You're happy." She reached up to touch his face with her hand. He caught it, and kissed her palm.
After a moment, Peter answered her. "Of course I'm happy."
Happy? He was ecstatic, having trouble keeping a big stupid grin off of his face. Every cliché about love was absolutely true. Coleridge was no longer wordy and obtuse. James Blunt songs didn't seem so pussy anymore.
"I just thought you'd have a big freak out…that you'd regret this," said Claire.
"No," said Peter with finality. He'd decided that this morning, when he woke up with her legs around his. "Do you?"
"No! God, no," said Claire, pulling him down to lie on top of her. Her legs spread beneath him, and she kissed him, slowly, languorously. Claire was an incredible kisser.
"Geez, Claire," said Peter roughly.
Peter shook his head. He didn't think it was possible to put into words the way she affected him.
Claire slapped his shoulder. "You gave me that look, that one right there, all the time. Tell me what it means," she said, with a grin on her face.
"It means, 'I'm going to go to hell for what I'm feeling right about now'," said Peter.
She laughed and nipped him behind the ear. "Afraid for your eternal soul?"
"And yours," said Peter.
"No, not anymore," said Peter.
"Why? I mean I'm not complaining…but why?"
"Because it wasn't doing any good," said Peter.
"I still knew," said Claire with an air of superiority.
"Yes, you did," said Peter, and pressed his lips to the spot where her hair met her temple. "How did you?"
"It wasn't hard, mmm…" said Claire, and he felt her toes curl. "I just…felt it, you know? And you stared at me a lot. And you didn't like my boyfriends."
"I thought I acted like I did pretty well."
"I hate to tell you this," said Claire, and she spread her legs apart just a little more. "But you're pretty much the worst liar in the world."
"You're sneaky enough for the both of us. You missed your flight on purpose yesterday. Admit it," said Peter.
She gave him an impish expression and tickled his waist. He held her hands together, and then kissed her deeply.
When Claire drew away, she looked into his eyes sincerely. "I'm glad, you know. That you didn't change your mind."
Peter shook his head, and leaned his head onto her breast. "I couldn't, even if I wanted to. Not after last night."
He raised his head. "I've had you now. I can't let you go, ever again."
Her brows crumpled and for a second, he thought she was going to cry. But then her face smoothed and she smiled at him tremulously.
"Tell me what I'm thinking," said Claire.
"I don't know."
"Can't you read thoughts anymore?"
"I can…but you told me not to, remember?" Peter kissed just under her cheekbones once, then twice.
"I remember," said Claire.
"Why did you want me to stay out of there so bad?"
"I didn't want you to know how I felt about you. It didn't seem fair, since you wouldn't tell me." Claire pushed the front of his hair back, her fingers trailing down the side of his face. "I love you, Peter," she said simply.
He kissed her again, and murmured, "I love you too" against her mouth.
She ground her hips up into his, very slowly.
He laughed softly. "You said it was too early."
"It is. But you woke me up, and now you must pay."
Peter wrapped his arms around her, and suddenly there was too much fabric separating his body from hers. She laughed when he wound the tangled sheets from her body, and tossed them to the floor.
With all of his abilities, with every superhuman feat he can accomplish, he's only a little surprised that the only thing he needs to achieve perfect happiness is a bed filled with sunshine and Claire.
She throws a fit when he mentions that its time to get ready to go to the airport. Says she doesn't want to go. Says she's staying. He speaks quietly to her for a few minutes, and then she goes to get her bag.
When Peter got home from the airport, he checked his email for the first time in weeks. A smile passed his face when he came to an email from Tani in his inbox.
Peter, how's it?
I know we said we'd email, and I know we said we'd never do it probably, and looks like we were right. But I saw your Bro on the television here the other day and thought of you. I just wanted to say what's up.
I'm back in Hawaii, where the weather is nice and the wind doesn't smell like piss. New York's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there again. Dr. Platte agreed, and held onto my couch and screamed when I told him it was time to go. He offered to be my cabana boy if I just let him live in my garage, but I don't have a pool, and the ladies would get the wrong idea.
Anyway, how's L.A.? I'm sorry we didn't get more time together before you left. I understand though, moving sucks and you were busy. Lionel says he hardly sees you. You must be working a lot.
I hope things are going well for you in your new job and new situation. I hope you aren't being too hard on yourself. You have good sense Peter. Remember when I told you that you're one of the good guys? You really are.
Chances are, your romantic circumstance has improved and/or otherwise resolved itself. If it hasn't, read the PS below.
Look me up if you're ever on the North Shore, my brother.
I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and I think it's the right time for me to say this, since you've been away from New York for a couple months. I'm not your shrink, so what I say in this email is written to you as a friend.
You're a sensitive guy, Peter, and I know the last thing you'd do would be to take advantage of anything. You did the right thing by moving. I was real proud of you for that. But the situation you found yourself in was complicated, of course, but not so complicated that you should be miserable for the rest of your life.
There are quite a few couples that've been in the same position as you. After spending time apart (different homes, different cities), if they were absolutely unhappy and still disinterested in anyone besides their desired partner, some would recommend that they give it a try. I leave that decision up to you. Just remember two things. First, the consequences that we talked about. They're irreversible. Second, we don't choose who we truly love. It just is.
Each of the Petrelli's had pieces of the puzzle, but not enough to get the picture.
The whole family was surprised when Claire abruptly decided to switch her major to marine biology the day she got back from Hawaii.
"Claire…you hate science," said Nathan
"Well, I don't hate it anymore," she answered perfunctorily. "I saw the marine life in Hawaii, and I really want to dedicate myself to that."
How could he argue with that? Nathan just shook his head, and had someone get in touch with the people at UCLA.
He buys a condo in the Valley. Twenty minutes from UCLA.
Her roommate answered whenever Heidi called their room. She politely said that Claire was out, and she should try her cell phone. Every time.
Nathan said she was probably partying, but she brought home good grades at the Christmas break.
Heidi thought it was nice, having Claire and Peter back for Christmas. They had flown in together, taken a cab to the house together.
They both looked so relaxed, so…refreshed. Not at all like they'd been crumpled on a plane for six hours. Claire's hair was bouncing over her shoulders, her lips and cheeks pink. Peter looked years younger than the last time she'd seen him. Must be the California sunshine.
Heidi walked into the den on a Sunday afternoon and found the two of them watching television, giggling quietly about something. Their intimacy made her feel like she was intruding in her own house.
He's determined to make this more than a stolen moment. His commitment to that eclipses anything, everything he's ever cared about in his life before Her.
Mrs. Petrelli came to California, on her way to visit some associates in Modesto. She stopped by the dorms to pick Claire up for a duty lunch.
She coldly surveyed the little dorm that Claire called home. Her roommate's side was covered with posters, clothes, bits of paper and notes.
Claire's wasi blank, and when Mrs. Petrelli asked for a drink of water, Claire opened the wrong cupboard door at first.
She didn't know what Claire was up to, but it wasn't happening in her dorm room.
He hasn't seen Lionel in months. He makes new friends, and doesn't introduce her as his niece.
Nathan found her a nice little summer job, interning. He called to tell her.
"I'm staying in California for the summer."
"I'm not going back to New York," said Claire.
"Where are you going to live?"
"A girl Peter knows from work needs a roommate."
He tried to talk her out of it, but she wouldn't even listen.
He worries that she's missing the college experience. He worries until she nestles into his lap, kisses him, and tells him that she knows what she's doing. And then he forgets.
Claire came to New York for a few weeks the next summer. Unannounced, and pissed.
Nathan sent the boys to tell Claire that it was time to leave for dinner. They came downstairs and said that the door was locked, but they could hear Claire on the phone, yelling at someone.
Claire seemed distracted for the first two weeks she was there, until Peter arrived. He'd found a cheap flight for the weekend.
Nathan barely recognized Peter. He seemed happier than he'd ever seen him.
He asked about Peter's love life late one night. Peter just laughed.
Tani gets married that fall, and he takes her to the wedding in Hawaii. Tani is very kind, very welcoming, and doesn't blink when he sees her, doesn't seem surprised at all.
Claire sasses Mrs. Petrelli over Christmas dinner the next year. In retaliation, Mrs. Petrelli asks about her studies.
"Are you hoping for a position at Sea World after you graduate?"
"Oh. Um, no. I actually…switched majors. Last spring."
Nathan put down his fork. "What?"
"Yeah, the sciences classes were just…too much. Like you said they'd be."
"What did you switch to?" asked Nathan.
"That's what you were going to study at NYU. You could have done that here," said Nathan.
That's when Peter cleared his throat loudly and changed the subject.
Tani said that they could have each other, or their family. Never both. He was right. Even though it's a little sad some days, Peter thought it would've been harder to give them up.
Nathan hated L.A., but in Claire's senior year he was invited by the Governor, and had to go. He took her and Peter out for dinner while he was there.
She ate food of off Peter's plate, and Nathan was a little uncomfortable with the closeness he sensed more than saw between the two of them.
Then Peter had to go to work, so Nathan went to Claire's place until his flight left. Her small apartment was neat as a pin, beautifully decorated. The sheets on her bed had crisp hospital corners, the hand towels were fluffy and new.
Claire graduated that spring, but told Nathan that she wasn't walking, so they shouldn't come out for it.
The first time he kisses her in public is at her graduation. He hands her yellow roses, and then leans his lips to hers gently.
The world doesn't end. It doesn't stop, or even stumble. Amid the chaos, no one notices, wouldn't care even if they did.
It's been five years, and the Petrelli's have shared their puzzle pieces. Not in so many words, but they all have a clear view of the picture at this point.
Nathan never really knew his daughter. And now he realizes that he didn't know his brother either.
Some days Nathan gets angry about it. Really angry. Some days he'd like to call them up and scream at them, ask them if they know what the hell they're doing, if they have any idea how sick it is.
Instead, Nathan takes a page out of one of the Political Great's playbook, and implements a strict "Don't ask; Don't Tell" policy.
He hates the gnawing feeling in his stomach that tells him a confrontation wouldn't change their behavior at all.
That Christmas, he gives her a ring. She cries when she opens the little box. It doesn't really mean anything. It can't.
But he wants her to have it all the same.
She puts it on that day and hasn't taken it off since.
They're both pretending. Some days they do it so well that they forget they are.
-- fin --
A/N – thanks for reading, and I hope everyone liked this story. if you did, please leave me a review saying so. i'd very much appreciate it!
i wrote this story listening to the album sam's town by the killers on repeat. almost every song is perfect for peter/claire, so i highly recommend that you check it out.