So, this is my first Heroes fic. I'm a huge fan of the show, and hope I do it justice with this story.
I started writing this before the big bio-dad reveal, so PLEASE! no reviews about how "it's so sick that people want Peter and Claire to be together".

I've just about completed this story, so updates should come quickly, depending on reviews.
Another thing, this story has been through many revisions, and plenty of plot changes, so if it sucks, let me know, and maybe I'll revise it...again.

Final thing; Heroes and all related characters are property of Tim Kring and NBC.

Though I SOOOOO wish I owned Milo...

Peter unlocked the door to his loft, and motioned for Claire to precede him.

He closed and locked the door behind them, tossing his keys on a table nearby.

When he turned, Claire was standing a few feet away, looking extremely awkward.

He smacked his forehead. "I'm sorry, I'm such an idiot. Please, sit down. Relax. Me casa is su casa."

She smiled and plopped down on the couch.

Peter walked into another room, and emerged again a moment later. "I put your bags in my room; you can have the bed tonight. I'll clear some space in my closet for your clothes tomorrow."

She smiled. "Thanks Peter. Really, I don't know how to thank you."

He shook his head, giving her that crooked smile of his. "Claire, I know I'm meant to protect you. Hell, this makes my job easier."

She smiled as he dropped onto the couch beside her. She stood and crossed to one of the huge windows looking out over New York City.

Peter watched her. God, she is so gorgeous. He watched her tuck a strand of her wavy blond hair behind her ear. I wonder how soft her hair is. What is smells like. I… JESUS! What the HELL am I thinking?! She's 17. Maybe this whole 'Come live with me so I can protect you' thing wasn't the best idea I've ever had.

Claire looked at Peter's reflection in the window. Wow. I don't remember him being so hot. That might have something to do with the fact that the last time I saw him he was in jail, blood-soaked, and sleep-deprived…

Peter cleared his throat, bringing her attention back to the here-and-now. "So, it's been a while since I was in high school. What do you like to do for fun?"

She shrugged. "Shop, listen to music, watch movies, have sex…"

Peter's jaw dropped.

She threw her head back and laughed. "Oh God, you should see your face. I'm only kidding, Peter."

He looked relieved, and smiled. "Very funny. Let's give Peter a heart attack, huh?"

She nodded.

He shook his head. "Well listen, I don't have food here, how do you feel about going out for some dinner. Pizza okay?"

She nodded vigorously. "I'm starving!"

Peter shook his head. "I can't believe how much you eat. How does such a tiny person eat 3 slices of pizza and a hot fudge sundae?"

Claire grinned. "I burn it off at cheerleading practice."

He laughed, and then his smile faded a bit. Three not-quite-friends of his had just walked in, and he was sure they'd spotted him. The guys were asses, and he knew they would make a big deal over Claire. He downed the last of his coffee, and stood up.

"Ready to go?"

Claire pouted. "But I haven't finished my sundae yet!"

The guys were already at the table, it was too late now.

"Petey! Who've we got here?" They hooted and pointed to Claire.

She swallowed, increasingly uncomfortable.

"Where've you been hiding this one Peter? Isn't she a little out of your league?"

The guy who had just spoken put his hand on her shoulder, and Peter saw a look of absolute fear and panic spread across her face.

Something's wrong…

Peter grabbed Claire's hand, and she stood up. He wrapped an arm around her waist. "Come on. Let's get out of here." He whispered in her ear.

As they stepped into the chilly New York City air, Peter felt Claire's shoulders shaking, and looked down at her. Tears were rolling slowly down her cheeks.

"Claire? What's wrong? Forget those guys, they're jerks."

She shook her head. "It's not that… He…He touched my shoulder, and I had flashbacks."

Peter's eyebrows furrowed. "Flashbacks?"

She nodded, not looking at him. "From…" She sighed, shaking her head. "Can we not talk about this here?"

He nodded. "Yeah, uh… Hang on."

He stepped into the street and hailed a cab. They climbed in, and rode back to the loft in silence.

Once inside, Claire sat down on the couch, and Peter followed suit.

Claire took a deep breath.

"Maybe a week or so before homecoming, I was at this bonfire with a bunch of kids from school. I had a bad feeling about it from the beginning, but this guy I liked… Well, he invited me. When I got there, it was already really out of hand. Tons of alcohol, people setting things on fire… The first thing the guy did was hand me a beer. I didn't drink it, I hate the taste. About an hour later, he asked me if we could go someplace else. He took me over to the bleachers, started kissing me. I didn't mind. I mean, I really liked this guy. But then he started putting his hands everywhere, and I told him to stop. He wouldn't. He kept trying to put his hands up my skirt… I was scared. I tried to run, but he grabbed me and threw me on the ground. He climbed on top of me. Started unzipping his pants. I freaked out. I started screaming, but no one could hear me."

A fresh batch of tears started rolling down her cheeks, and Peter swallowed, hard. He clasped her hands. "He… He raped you?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. I tried to run again, and he pushed me. I lost my balance, and fell. A tree limb went through my skull. It killed me, Peter. I woke up at the morgue, completely cut open. I had to shove my organs back in…"

Peter's mouth fell open. "Oh my God…"

She nodded. "I just… When that guy touched me back at the restaurant, all those memories came flooding back and it…"

Peter pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her tightly. "Oh God, Claire… I'm so sorry."

She buried her face in his chest, sobs wracking her body.

His jaw tightened. "Who was it? The guy who hurt you, who was it?"

Claire shook her head. "Brody. The quarterback. But it's okay, I got my revenge."

Peter's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"

She sat up, wiping her face. "I pretended I didn't remember what had happened, and I told him I needed a ride home. I asked if I could drive. I crashed the car into a brick wall."

Peter swallowed. "You killed him?"

She shook her head. "No. He survived. But needless to say, he didn't play in the homecoming game."

Peter pulled her into his arms again, holding her close.

They sat like that for a long time, until Claire fell asleep. He smiled down at the sleeping girl, and then lifted her into his arms, carrying her to the bedroom.

He placed her on the bed, pulled the covers up over her, and then looked at her. "I promise, I will ALWAYS protect you. You're safe with me, Claire." He whispered.

He switched off the light.

Peter spread an extra blanket and pillow over the couch, lying down.

He closed his eyes, but sleep would not come.

Images of Claire flashed through his head. Her tear-streaked face would be forever etched into his memory.

Rolling over, he closed his eyes tighter and murmured a prayer that he would be able to keep his promise to always protect Claire from everything.