Disclaimer: Heroes and its characters do not belong to me, and I'm not making any profit from this fanfic.

Summary: Sylar's brain refuses to let him forget the one that got away. Set between "Run!" and "Unexpected."

Rating: T/PG-13, just to be safe, for disturbing/violent imagery and mild sexual undertones.

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Sylar didn't often find himself unable to sleep. Insomnia was beneath him. Normal people—ordinary people—might lie awake at night, worrying about their own insignificance, but Sylar didn't have that problem. Not anymore.

Tonight, the thoughts keeping him awake were of a different sort altogether.

The cheap hotel bed creaked noisily in protest as he rolled over, disentangling his legs from the sheet and swinging them over the side of the bed. He ran a hand through his hair and squinted at the red numbers on the bedside clock. It was nearly four in the morning. Letting out a huff of frustration, he decided to abandon the attempt at sleep. Mohinder would want to be up and on the road in two or three hours, anyway. If there was one thing Sylar had learned about Mohinder during the course of this road trip, it was that the geneticist apparently didn't believe in sleeping in.

Sylar hauled himself off the bed and padded across the small room, unlatching the door and letting it swing open. They were currently in Montana, about half a day's drive from the city of Bozeman, where Mohinder hoped to locate one of the people on the list. Sylar allowed himself a faint smile at the thought. "Not much longer, now," he murmured, a reassurance aimed at the ever-growing need that was always with him, simmering just below the surface. Not much longer.

He stepped out across the walkway, the concrete surface cold and rough against his bare feet. An uncomfortably frigid wind picked up suddenly, and he tilted his face into it, welcoming the distraction. The craving for new powers—the desire to take, to consume—had been a constant presence for months. But in the past few days, it had been growing steadily more urgent, demanding, insatiable. And to his dismay, he was finding that the more the need increased, the more he was becoming plagued by memories of his most gnawing failure.

The name leaped unbidden to his mind, accompanied by a series of images—a flash of blonde hair, a red and white cheerleading uniform, a mangled face seamlessly knitting itself back together before his eyes. Claire.

He felt his jaw clench, his teeth grinding together involuntarily. At first, she had been just another potential victim—nameless, faceless, merely a carrier of a power she didn't deserve. Quite a useful power, at that—one he would be more than happy to add to his collection. But when she'd escaped from him on that disastrous night at the high school, she had instantly changed from just another victim to a full-blown obsession. She was the one that had somehow, inexplicably, managed to slip through his fingers.

He was Sylar. The next step in mankind's evolution. The natural progression of the species. Escaping him was not an option, and yet she had done it.

His brain continued to flood him with images of her, and he let his eyes slide closed, no longer attempting to fight the deluge. He could see her perfectly in his mind's eye, courtesy of the eidetic memory he'd stolen from that waitress in Texas. His mind focused in particular on the photograph of Claire he'd seen at the Bennet household, recalling every feature in detail. Every curl of hair trailing over her shoulders, the laughter in her eyes, the brightness of her smile…

His eyes snapped open, then narrowed to slits. Something was wrong with that image of Claire. She looked too happy. Too safe. Her smile was mocking him, reminding him once again of his failure. A sudden spike of rage shot through him, nearly knocking him over with its intensity, but it subsided as quickly as it had come, leaving agitation in its wake. He hissed out a breath between clenched teeth, suppressing the urge to pace the walkway like a caged animal.

He reached out and gripped the rail at the edge of the walkway with both hands, clenching his fists until the knuckles turned white, fighting ruthlessly for control over his wayward emotions. He was beyond this sort of weakness, he reminded himself sharply. He was cold, calculating, unrelenting.

As his calm slowly returned, he closed his eyes once more. He was in control. Not Claire, not her father, not that Peter Petrelli who apparently envisioned himself as some kind of savior. Sylar had failed once in his attempt to kill Claire, but he would not be denied again. It was only a matter of time.

Slowly, he allowed his mind to bring up another image of her. This time, the laughter had disappeared from her eyes, replaced by an expression of chilling fear. His lips twitched in a smile. Some said that a woman's beauty was greatest when she was angry, but they knew nothing. Fear was far more beautiful than anger.

Sheer terror was the most beautiful of all.

The Claire in his mind's eye was backing away from him now. Her lips were parted, her breath coming in short, ragged gasps, her eyes wide and wild as she saw there was nowhere to run. No protective father or heroic male nurse would come to her rescue here. Soon she was up against a wall, cornered and trembling, completely at his mercy.

He chuckled deep in his throat. His mercy was in decidedly short supply.

Eyes still closed, he envisioned himself stepping closer to Claire, using his telekinesis to keep her pinned against the wall, completely immobile. Occasionally he amused himself by allowing his victims a moment or two of struggle, giving them the pretense of hope that escape was possible. But not her. She had eluded him once, and once was one time too many. This time there would be no mistakes, no failure.

Reveling in his triumph, he lifted his hand slowly, almost languidly, and let his fingers trail over her hair, her cheek, her lips. He could—and sometimes did—dispatch of his victims without ever touching them, but Claire was…a special case. This was a moment to be savored. His breathing quickened, his fingers tightening against the handrail. The concrete beneath his feet and the wind against his face were completely forgotten. All that existed was his prey.

He pointed his index finger at her head, and the distinctive whirring sound of the telekinesis was drowned out by her scream. Blood began to run down her face—a trickle at first, then a steady stream—the dark red liquid contrasting sharply with her quickly paling skin. The stream continued to widen as it flowed into her hair, crimson and golden mingling together, the mixing of colors reminding him of something an artist might create.

He smiled, admiring his handiwork, and let his gaze drift back to her face. Her screams had long since faded, replaced by the occasional choking sound, her body jerking sporadically as it fought to stay alive. Her healing power was fast, he noted with a twinge of anticipation, but his telekinesis was faster.

Reaching out, he took her chin in his hand and stroked her bloodstained cheek with his thumb, mocking her with the deceptively gentle touch. Her gaze was rapidly losing focus, but with a last valiant effort she raised her eyes to meet his stare head-on.

His fingers tightened around her chin. "You know it has to be this way, Claire," he said softly, speaking for the first time. There was no apology in his voice, just a simple, matter-of-fact finality.

She was either beyond speech or choosing not to talk, but something shifted in her eyes, displaying a strange mix of defiance and despair. Sylar's lips twisted in a satisfied smirk, and he raised his index finger once again. Time to end this.

Claire closed her eyes, finally giving up the battle. They both knew she was beaten. Sylar's pulse pounded as he prepared to strike the final telekinetic blow. Soon her ability would be his. It was only a matter of seconds…

Without warning, a voice invaded his trance—far away at first, then increasingly insistent.


Sylar's eyes flew open, the vision shattering in an instant. The image of Claire vanished, and with it the sweet smell of her blood, the overwhelming rush of power, and the heady sense of anticipation. He blinked rapidly, completely disoriented, trying to bring himself back to reality.

"Zane?" came the voice again. "Are you all right?"

He whirled around to face the intruder. Mohinder stood there, watching him with an expression of perplexed concern. Sylar felt a rush of fury at the interruption threaten to overwhelm him, but he clamped down on it with an inexorable grip. Now was not the time to lose control.

"Oh, Mohinder," he stammered, slipping back into the character of Zane. "Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry about that, I didn't see you there."

"Oh, no, my apologies," Mohinder said with a slightly embarrassed laugh. "I didn't intend to sneak up on you like that."

"Really, it's no problem," Sylar replied quickly. He cleared his throat and gave the geneticist his best friendly, Zane-like smile. "So, uh, what are you doing up at this hour?"

"I might ask you the same question," Mohinder said with a chuckle. He gestured to a box tucked under his arm. "I just went down to the little convenience store across the way to get some tea." He shrugged one shoulder. "Sometimes I have trouble sleeping on hotel beds, so I thought I might as well try to get some work done. Would you like some tea?" He held up the package, peering at it in the dim light. "It's not Earl Grey, but it's the best the convenience store had."

"Nah, I'm fine. But thanks," Sylar said. "I was just out getting a little bit of fresh air."

"You seemed like you were awfully deep in thought," Mohinder said. "Something in particular on your mind?"

"Oh, it's nothing, really," Sylar answered. "Well…" he trailed off, then gave an almost bashful smile. "A girl, actually."

Mohinder's look of polite curiosity morphed into a knowing grin. "Ahh, I see. Someone special, I take it?"

Sylar let a slow smile spread across his face. You have no idea. "Yes," he said softly, almost more to himself than to Mohinder. "She's very special."

There was a slight pause before Mohinder spoke again. "Well, I hope she wasn't too upset that you picked up and left so suddenly to go on this little cross-country trip," he said, quirking an eyebrow.

"Oh, no. She doesn't live in Virginia Beach, actually," Sylar answered. He sighed. "It's been a while since I last saw her," he said quietly, injecting just the right amount of wistful regret into his voice. "Too long, really."

Mohinder's face softened immediately, and Sylar let himself indulge in a moment of smug satisfaction. The man was so easy to fool.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Mohinder was saying. He stepped forward to give Sylar a friendly clap on the shoulder. "Well, I hope your paths cross again soon."

Sylar smiled. "So do I."

Mohinder fished his hotel key out of his pocket and turned to unlock the door. "I'll see you in a few hours."

"Okay," Sylar said with a nod. "Enjoy your tea."

He waited until he heard the latch click on Mohinder's door before he dropped the act and leaned heavily against the railing, the strain of sleeplessness suddenly taking its toll. Letting out a long sigh, he pressed the heel of his hand against his undoubtedly bloodshot eyes.

And in the back of his mind, the cause of his insomnia continued to linger: Claire Bennet's eternally smiling face.

Straightening, he looked out across the hotel parking lot without really seeing it. She was still out there somewhere, still breathing. He didn't know where, exactly, but he knew he could find her. He would find her. Soon, he promised himself, his fingers involuntarily curling into fists. She couldn't run or hide forever. Soon, he would make his fantasy into a reality.

A ghost of a smile crossed his face as he disappeared back into his hotel room.