It was beginning to concern him, how much he liked Pete looking at him.
Claude knew a big part of it was that no one had actually looked at him in close to seven years. People looked through him, looked in his direction, but you can't look at what you can't see, and no one could see him.
No one except Pete. Still scared the hell out of him, when he thought about it.
Seven years is a long time. Long enough for it to be a novelty to feel Pete's eyes following him, to know the kid was watching him, looking at him, even if the kid looked at him like he wanted to kill him more often than not.
Claude had been working him hard for the past few hours, not that they were getting anywhere. Oh, Pete would show flashes, but nothing consistent, nothing controlled, nothing useful. It was getting to the point where Claude was convinced that being pitched off the roof was the only thing that got through to him.
He never was exactly sure what happened next. One second he had Pete reeling, the next the kid was flying above him, and then Claude had no idea what happened. He would wonder later if it wasn't a bit of uncontrolled TK; at the time, all he knew was that out of nowhere he was flat on his back.
He must have blacked out: the first thing he heard when he came to a few seconds later was Pete panicking: "Oh fuck, oh fuck, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that, shit, I'm sorry..."
Claude tried to tell him to knock it off, but the lecture came out as more of a moan. He started to get up and managed to almost roll over before Pete got himself together. "Hey, hey, careful. Don't try to move around too much." He felt Pete's arms reach around his waist and sit him up; it was easier to breathe semi-vertical, and Claude focused on forcing air back into his lungs and not on how embarrassing this all was. He tried to tell himself this was actually a good thing; it was all too easy to forget that, fun as it was to was to play games with him, the whole reason for going through all this trouble was that the kid actually did have the potential to level a city, and to do it while barely even trying. A few bruises would go a long way towards making sure that particular lesson stayed learned.
When he managed to open his eyes he saw Pete staring at him with that concerned, puppy-dog look he was so good at. Claude didn't think he'd ever wanted to hit someone more in his life. "Can you move your head? Do you have any pain in your neck?" he said, patting Claude down in a way that seemed oddly professional until Claude remembered, oh, right, he actually did have some medical training tucked behind those bangs. "Anything numb, pins and needles..."
"I'm fine," Claude said, trying to wave Pete off of him. "Knocked the wind out of me, is all."
"I'm just trying to make sure," he said, moving one hand across Claude's field of vision to test how well Claude could track it. "Well, I don't think you have a concussion," Pete said, and Claude rolled his eyes. "Look, you went down really hard," he said. "If we're not careful I could really hurt you."
If Claude had needed any motivation to end this tender moment, Pete had just given him plenty. "If I ever even get the inkling that you're holdin' back because you're worried about hurting me, I will kill you. You understand that?"
Pete sat back on his heels and chuckled. "I think you already tried that. Remember? Thirty-story building? Very dead cab? Big piece of metal through my sternum? I don't know what you're gonna do to top that."
"I'll find a way to make it permanent. I'm very resourceful." He felt a twinge in his ribs when he tried again to get his legs back under him, and when he saw the set of Pete's jaw he knew he must have winced at the pain despite himself. Pete shot him a reproachful look and sat him back down. He then started undoing Claude's shirt, and Claude realized he had to take back control of the situation, and quickly. "I said I'm fine..."
Too late. Claude saw Pete's expression darken, and he sighed. The kid had just enough medical knowledge to be dangerous, and he knew he wouldn't be able to bluff Pete into believing those scars had been caused by anything but bullets. "Leave it alone, Pete."
"Who did this?" Claude was taken aback by the fury in his voice; Pete glanced up at him and Claude could see steel in his eyes. He was ready to go to war if Claude gave him a name. It was...kind of endearing, actually. Dumb, but endearing.
"We're not talkin' about it," Claude said. "Leave it alone."
Unfortunately, Claude had long since learned that leaving things alone wasn't one of Pete's strengths. He brushed his fingertips against the scar on Claude's side; that had been the third bullet, the one that had splintered his rib and lodged in his lung. Bennet always had scored in the ninety-ninth percentile on the marksmanship evaluations. "This could have killed you," he said.
Claude remembered the sensation of crushing pressure when his lung collapsed, like someone had rolled a boulder onto his chest. He still had the occasional dream about trying to breathe. "Almost did," he said. "Not that it's your business. So, Dr. Petrelli," he sighed, pouring all the contempt into his voice he could, "Am I dying now or not?"
Pete ran his hands down Claude's ribs, and Claude had to close his eyes against the touch. He felt Pete tense up. "Did that hurt?" he asked, and Claude almost nodded. He needed to get Pete away from him, right now.
As bad as it was that it had been seven years since anyone had seen him, it had been even longer since he'd been touched. An embarrassingly long time, if he let himself think about it. Long enough that he was already hard, and Pete had barely touched him; for once Claude found himself glad that the kid wandered through the world in an oblivious fog, because otherwise he might notice.
Touch was dangerous. Touch was the sense hardest to hide from; he depended on his invisibility to survive, but someone who could touch him didn't need to see him. Pete walking up to him on the street and grabbing his arm was how he'd gotten into this mess in the first place.
Pete's hair was hanging over his eyes again, and Claude had to strangle down the compulsive urge to brush it back from his face. "So, what's the verdict?"
"I think you're just bruised," he said.
Claude could still feel the echo of Pete's fingertips against his skin; however much he liked Pete looking at him, he was starting to realize that he liked Pete touching him even more. He'd agreed to train him to keep the city from exploding, but each day it got that much harder to deny that he wanted this kid. It scared Claude that he couldn't pinpoint just when that had started. "We ready to keep goin', then? Or do you want to just sit an' wait to see if you'll explode given the time?"
Pete scowled but backed off and gave Claude room to get himself up. The training started up again, but the rhythm was all off; Claude kept finding himself a step closer to Pete than he'd intended to be, kept connecting when he'd intended to parry and losing his footing for no reason.
Finally he backed Pete up against the stonework along the building ledge. There were inches between them; Pete had entirely dropped his guard, which Claude had warned him against three times already. The sun was down and the October wind sliced across the roof. Claude knew he should finish this, wrap up the object lesson and move on, but his mind was miles away, lingering on the brush of Pete's fingers against his skin.
Claude didn't know when Pete just looking at him had stopped being enough. Probably somewhere around the same time the name had become "Pete" in his head, instead of Peter or Petrelli or That Annoying Little Punk Who's Taking Years Off My Life. All he knew was that he was in up to his elbows now, and instead of what he was supposed to doing all Claude he could think about was that he badly, badly wanted to kiss him.
And then while his mind was busy racing Pete just angled his head up the few inches and kissed him first. Claude was so surprised he didn't even remember to close his eyes before Pete pulled back a few seconds later. Pete's eyes were shadowed, watching for his reaction; he kept nervously brushing back his bangs. "I could hear that you...y'know, I...It's been coming and going all day, I can't really control it that well."
It took tremendous force of will for Claude to keep his voice even. "You were hearin' my thoughts, then. That power you leeched from the cop."
"Yeah. Um...Sorry? Really, I didn't mean it."
He couldn't even hide his thoughts from this kid. Claude took a step back and Pete tensed up, bracing for a punch. That was Claude's first instinct too, punch him, send him off the side, something to make sure he kept his proper distance next time.
But he liked Pete being this close. And then there was the nagging voice inside his head, the one that said the reason he kept hitting the poor kid was wasn't to train him: it was because he wanted to touch him and that was the only safe way.
Just the possibility of that being true was too pathetic. He knew there was only one way to shut that voice up.
Claude grabbed him by his collar, pressed him against the stonework and kissed him hard. He heard Pete whisper "Fucking finally," felt his mouth open to return the kiss, and it had been so long since Claude had done this that he realized he'd forgotten how good it felt. Claude drew back to catch his breath and Pete's dark eyes looked through him. "Guess we're taking a break, then?" he said, lips curling into a half-smile.
Claude kissed him again, and he felt Pete's hands slide up under his shirt. "Don't think we won't make up for it later," Claude whispered into his ear, then he didn't care about anything except Pete's mouth and hands on his skin.
The kid was right. It was about time to take a break.