Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Lastly, this fic contains some very heavy themes. It's also clearly stated that this fic is Peter/Claire. So if you don't like that pairing, go read something else.
She has never been a patient girl, so it's kind of funny that it's turned out this way.
But she waits, because she has to. She doesn't like it, but there's no other choice at this point. She waits because there's nothing else she can do.
For a brief moment she lets herself think about what's to come. What it all means. The consequences of her decisions. Their decisions.
She's scared to death, absolutely terrified.
She unfolds the letter when she's in her seat on the plane. She reads it for the billionth time in two days. It's written in his terrible handwriting.
"I admit that it's easier this way too, both for you and for me. Saying goodbye is something that I hate more than anything in the world, and you and I have had to do it way too often."
She sighs and tucks the letter back into her pocket. This is where it all ends, or begins, and she's not sure which is which anymore.
Claire didn't have the grades for William & Mary, but that was where she had wanted to go. Nathan had pulled a few strings (not many – not very important ones at that), and she'd had a nice little apartment not far away from the historic section of town.
By herself, though. Always by herself. Nathan had insisted, and Bennet had backed him up. It was just easier that way.
Nathan picked Claire up from the airport when she came home for Thanksgiving in her junior year. Didn't send a car or his P.A. He was slowly learning how to do things right with her.
Of course, it helped to have Heidi coaching him. Heidi was always careful to make sure Claire was happy and taken care of. Claire's stubborn, she said. She would never ask for help. Would never say if she needed something. She told Nathan sternly that just because Claire was 20 didn't mean he was off the hook for parenting duties.
Heidi commented quietly one night as she and Nathan were getting into bed that Claire seemed listless and tired.
Nathan had just laughed and said that she sure as hell wasn't sick. Heidi rolled her eyes. He never worried, not about the stuff that he should be. So like a man, Heidi thought.
Heidi watched her carefully at dinner and fed her the nicest bits of the turkey anyway, just to be safe. She urged second helpings and then a third.
Claire ate well and the next day she seemed fine. She went with them to the theater and joked with her little brothers and even got her grandmother to smile once. So Heidi didn't worry about it anymore.
It was just a quick visit over winter break, but it Nathan thought it was really nice of her to make the effort.
On Christmas Eve she chattered brightly to Peter on the phone when it was her turn. He called from…wherever he was at the moment. Srpska. Or somewhere equally unpronounceable. He was traveling non-stop these days, helping Mohinder to contact other extraordinary individuals, to bring their abilities to the greatest collective good.
Nathan respected the work, sure he did, but he couldn't help that when he spoke about it it was with an air of sarcasm.
She was only there two nights. Her family, her biological (but not quite real) family waved as she wheeled her suitcase out to the taxi, which would take her to the airport, back to Texas for the rest of her winter break.
She was such a nice girl, said Nathan, and he was glad that he had gotten to know her, that their tenuous relationship, or friendship, more like, had developed in the last five years.
Mrs. Petrelli shooed the boys back into the house and remarked that while Claire wasn't quite a Petrelli, she was a dear part of their odd little conglomeration.
She came for Easter, and Mrs. Petrelli eyed the healthy scoop of mashed potatoes on Claire's plate, and made a comment about the Freshman Fifteen.
Claire pretended not to notice.
Heidi rolled her eyes. Claire was well beyond a freshman, and besides, so what if she'd put on a few pounds? It wasn't all that much anyway.
School had just let out. It was late May, but it was cool, the coldest May that Nathan could remember in New York City.
There was a frantic knocking at his door late one night. He opened it to find Claire on the doorstep, eyes rimmed in red, no make-up, hair pulled up into a messy ponytail. He hadn't asked questions, just paid the cab that was waiting.
Heidi walked in tying her robe, and was quick to shush all of Claire's mumblings about the charges she made onto the credit card; the one Nathan had given her for emergencies.
She asked if Claire was safe, and if everything was okay. Claire nodded and all she said was that she'd had a fight, a big one with her dad, and that she wanted to stay here for awhile and that she'd flown from Odessa and was very, very tired.
They didn't ask any more questions than that. When Claire tearfully told them that she'd pay them back for the airfare, Nathan shook his head and hugged her. Heidi told her to get some sleep, and Claire didn't come out of her room until well after noon the next day.
By that time, Bennet had called.
By that time, everyone knew.
A/N –thanks to my mm buddy viv1 for playing friend and beta!