Disclaimer: Um, nope, don't own them!
Beta: The fabulous gidget, who is all made of awesome - all mistakes are my own!
Rating: NC-17 (sex, language, adult themes)
Warnings: Canon incest, and, um, a whole lot of angst? Claire's an adult but, yes, this is canon incest. Don't read it if you don't want to, okay?
Timeline: AU as of S1 finale, a good four years into the future, because, yep, I'm obsessed.
Teaser: Claire finally gets sick of pretending, Peter finally gets a clue.
Over the last three years, Peter has come to despise Christmas in New York.
Like everything else in his life, Claire has ruined it just by being there.
And it's a nasty fact that as much as he hates her for it, he always counts down the days until she's back in New York.
Before Claire, he had always loved Christmas in New York, cold and clear and bright, when Nathan was his most pleasant and the house felt the most like a home. That was before Claire, though, before she came crashing into his life and brought it down around his head. Before Claire and after Claire— it's a straight line between the two, so sharp and clear that it never wavers.
It's the only real line left in his life, before Claire and after Claire, and he clings to it selfishly, stubbornly.
He's found that he can handle Thanksgiving well enough, and the only truly bad moments then are the silent stares and forced smiles across the dinner table, his jaw aching as he tries not to stare too hard and tries to take everything in at the same time. Even with that though, there's so much chaos at Thanksgiving that he can and does use it as a buffer when they're both wandering around the mansion pretending like the other one doesn't exist…
But Christmas is just exhausting, wears him down and leaves him drained. She always gives him looks he can't help but return, uncanny glances and quiet frowns; he always watches her move, strong legs carrying her around easily as she works to keep things feeling normal. Stands in doorways, and watches her wrap gifts; feels her eyes on him as he tries to play the uncle role he doesn't fit into no matter how hard he tries to smash himself into that damn mold.
Peter hates Christmas, but he goes back home every Christmas anyway— Claire's there and he can't stay away.
It's always the same alarming mix of panic and excitement hitting him, swamping him as he hides in his room for the first few hours - and it's the same today as he finally drops onto his bed and pulls the pillow over his head. It's childish, selfish even, but he honestly doesn't give a fuck (pardon his French) and even as he tries to hold the pillow over his ears, he strains to hear the noises drifting up from below. Claire's hollow laugh rings out abruptly, leaving him weak and bitterly giddy, scowling at himself in a useless attempt to stop it, but he listens intensely anyway, knowing she's shrugging off her favorite winter coat and checking her hair in the mirror by the front door.
Peter's pretty sure that one of these days he'll tear himself in two.
Won't help, though— Claire's fucked up his ability to die, and it would have solved everything, if he stayed dead after that fall off that amphitheater.
Before Claire and after Claire and it's a nice straight line, and he almost hates it more than he hates Christmas.
He doesn't go downstairs until he hears her finally close herself up in her room down her hall—twenty-six feet and seven inches, that's how far away she is and he can see the light under the door sway and flicker and he knows she's pacing—feigning exhaustion and an accidental nap. He rubs his face and is grateful for the imprint the bed left on his cheek from hours of being a coward; it makes it easier to pretend he had actually fallen asleep and hadn't been listening greedily to every word and sound he could pick out, memorizing them and tucking them away where nobody can touch them but him.
Peter can hear a lot, thanks to Sylar, that stupid jackass.
He spends a good amount of time hating Sylar and then hates himself for the fact that, for all the death and destruction the dead psychopath caused, Peter hates him most for bringing him and Claire crashing together. It's all Sylar's fault, he's come to decide, and when he goes to Hell (dirty uncles who want to have sex and marriage and a life with their niece always go to Hell), he's got a big list of things he's going to do to him to get him back for getting him in this mess.
Peter is well aware of the fact that his ability to keep a steady thought has gone horribly downhill.
"You missed Claire."
"I'll make it up to her tomorrow, help her make her cookies," and the lie comes easily enough as he drifts from one corner of the house to another, brushing past his brother and very carefully not looking at the white coat hanging by the door, taunting him. Claire bakes a lot during the Christmas holidays, and usually ends up shrieking at anyone who tries to help. He gets it and she gets it (idle hands always lead to touching, even when they're both refusing to say anything out loud) but nobody else does so everyone thinks it's poor-orphan-Claire, trying to recreate her childhood.
Idle hands, bad, always bad.
And he glances up from that damn white coat of Claire's, finds his big brother staring at him with that look that Peter's begun to dread, one that's quietly desperate and he hates him for a moment, so much that he closes his eyes and takes a breath, dizzy from emotion. "Fine," he manages and he's nodding like a cheap bobble head as he breaks beneath the strain, pushing right past Nathan and right back up the stairs, clinging to his self-control as he carefully doesn't look at the closed door of her room.
He listens to her breathing all night as he watches infomercials on mute, and pretends he doesn't.