The shivers come on suddenly late in the night. He doesn't pay it any mind at first, not even when they wake him from sound sleep three nights in a row. He's had pneumonia before; it's been something of an occupational hazard the past seven years. He figures this is just more of the same.
The fever that follows soon after is a bit more of a concern, especially the night it hits 105 degrees and he starts hallucinating. He manages to tell himself he's just caught a particularly bad strain this time, even after he's forced to hole up because he's too weak to stay on his feet for more than a few minutes.
It's when he notices he can see his reflection in windows, when he realizes that people on the street are avoiding him, when the yuppie he's about to pickpocket sees him coming: his ability's gone.
That's when Claude realizes he's dying.
It all goes downhill quickly after that. The days become stretches of delirium and chills; it gets to the point where every breath feels like a dagger in his chest.
He sees ghosts: the ones he let go, the many, many more he didn't. Peter shows up one night and Claude tries to explain why he had to run, but it's pointless. Peter's not really there, and even though Claude doesn't buy the official story of the kid's demise he knows he's not going to live long enough to ever see him again.
One night he comes to and sees the Haitian looking down at him with those familiar, emotionless eyes. He tries to get away but doesn't have enough left; the Haitian reaches for him, and Claude realizes the Company won't even let him die in peace. "Don't touch me," he whispers, mustering up all the energy he has left. "Stay away from me." He's shivering so hard his teeth are chattering, and as he lapses back into unconsciousness his last thought is that if the Haitian wants to take his mind there's absolutely nothing he can do about it.
He feels something cold against his forehead. Someone's saying his name; when he opens his eyes he has no idea where is or how much time has passed. "Claude, do you hear me?"
Claude tries to nod. It sounds like Bennet. He knows he must be far gone if he's hallucinating about Bennet. "Claude, you're very sick," says the Bennet-shaped blur in front of him. "I have a friend who can help." Claude looks up and there's another man standing behind Bennet, a smaller man, darker-skinned. Claude knows he's seen him before but can't focus enough to remember where. The shivers come back and he closes his eyes; he hears Bennet say, "It's all right. We're going to take care of you," and Claude wishes he had enough strength left to laugh.
He's just at the edge of consciousness when he hears Bennet whisper in his ear: "You were right about me. I'm sorry for everything." Claude's sure he's dreaming then, because the Bennet he knew would never apologize.
Then the blackness takes him.
The next time he opens his eyes he still has no idea where he is. The difference between this time and the last is that for the first time in what seems like an eternity he's not shivering.
"You gave us quite a scare."
Claude turns his head and sees Bennet sitting beside him. He has to swallow a few times before he manages to make his voice work. "Guess that wasn't all a dream, then?"
Bennet shakes his head. "Real as life." He holds a glass of water to Claude's lips, and the first swallow tastes like heaven.
"Where am I?"
"Someplace safe," Bennet says, an answer that isn't entirely reassuring. Claude tries to get up and is immediately overcome by vertigo; he feels Bennet's hand warm against his forehead. "I don't quite think you're ready for that," he says.
Claude lies back down until the world decides to right itself. "How'd you find me?"
Bennet lets out a deep breath and scratches his chin. "Actually," he says, and Claude knows a guilty secret coming when he sees one, "I've been tracking you for the past few months."
Claude feels his blood slowly freeze. "You can't. I took care of the trackers, they don't work anymore."
"We have a new system." Bennet then clarifies, "We have a system. Not them."
"Ah, I see our patient's awake," says another man as he walks up behind Bennet, the smaller one who had been with him earlier. "I can't tell you how relieved I am. You were so far gone when we found you I'd been afraid we were too late."
Now Claude remembers where he'd seen him before. "I know you," he whispers. "You were in Peter's apartment. He wanted to jump out the window to get away from you."
Bennet looks amused, and the man sighs. "Yes, I'm afraid Mr. Petrelli and I didn't get off to the best of starts."
"As I was saying," Bennet says, getting the conversation back on track, "I've been tracking you since after Election day."
"Call it caution. You could even call it a guilty conscious if you like. At any rate, you haven't stayed in the same place for more than two days. When I noticed that you'd gone over five without moving, I knew something had to be wrong."
It takes Claude a minute to digest this. "You saved me?"
Bennet shrugs. "I was more of the go-between, really. It's really Dr. Suresh here you should be thanking. It's his blood that cured you."
Claude looks at Suresh, and it must he obvious he's thinking, Your blood?, because the doctor immediately explains, "My blood contains antibodies that counteract the virus. We're working on duplicating the effect synthetically, but it's taking some time."
Claude turns back to Bennet. "So I'm cured, then? My ability works?"
"As well as ever. As soon as you're strong enough you can disappear."
"Sure I can," Claude scoffs. "What're you goin' to do with me?"
Bennet leans back. "Nothing. As soon as you're able, you're free to go. I'll even give you my word that I'll never track you again."
The only reason Claude doesn't laugh in his face is that he knows that if he'd been captured by the Company he would have woken up strapped to an operating table. "What game are you playin'?"
There's a gleam in Bennet's eye that Claude's never seen before. "A lot's changed since I tried to taser you and Peter that night," he says, and it's almost funny, the aghast look Suresh shoots him. "I'm not with the Company anymore, and you know better than anyone what their idea of a fair severance package is. I'm in hiding, too."
There could only be one reason for that. "Claire?"
Bennet nods. "Claire."
Claude mulls this over. "So that's it? I can leave, if I want?"
"If you want. Or you can take me up on my offer."
Claude's listening. Bennet leans forward, and it's the slow, simmering rage in his eyes that convinces Claude this isn't the same man who left him for dead on that bridge all those years ago --- or rather, it's finally the man he'd tried to hard to argue that day had been there all along. "There's a group of us. Me, the Haitian, a telepathic detective in New York named Parkman. I already have Mohinder here acting as a mole." Bennet grins. "We're taking the Company down. Every last one of them. I refuse to run for the rest of my life, and I'm willing to bet even you're tired of it by now."
Bennet looks right into his eyes. "You have no reason to trust me ever again. If you walk away, believe me, I understand. But I'm finally fighting the good fight, and we could use all the help we can get." He takes off his glasses, and suddenly he looks just like he did when he was Claude's partner for all those years. "Are you in?"
The minute he takes to decide is the longest of his life. He knows the safest route is to disappear and never be heard from again.
But he also knows Bennet's right. He's so tired of running. And besides, taking the safest route has never been what he's best at. "I'm in." Bennet smiles, and then exhaustion hits Claude like a truck. "'Tired."
"I'll bet," Bennet says, and Claude can't keep his eyes open any more. "Get some rest," he hears Bennet say. "We have a lot of plans to make."
As he starts drifting back to sleep, he can't help laughing. "Brave new world," he says.
Bennet chuckles; Claude feels his hand back against his forehead. "Well, we're working on it." There's a pause, and then Bennet says softly, "It's good to have you back."
Claude nods. He realizes to his surprise that it feels good to be back.
Brave new world, indeed.