Disclaimer: Um, nope, don't own them!
Rating: NC-17 (sex, language, adult themes)
Warnings: Canon incest, and, um, a whole lot of angst?
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.
Notes: twistdmentality is made of epic awesome. Tell her thank you for petting me and my muse when we needed it most, ;-)
Claire is comfortable in France in a way she isn't in New York.
The truth is startling, throws him more than he knows it should.
Even as they're getting off the plane, her mood changes, face losing some of its tightness and movements becoming smoother, heeled boots eating the ground as she moves easily past him (her arm brushes his and there's a little jolt he refuses to admit even to himself) and takes off to get their luggage. They don't have much, only what she brought to New York and what he threw together before.
He watches her as he trails along behind, remembers when she was like this all the time.
Alert, balanced, ready to charge into anything, not like the worn-out woman she is now.
There's a tiny flicker of envy is his stomach, small but growing bigger as he watches.
He's not at all sure how to deal with the realization that he's jealous of a country because they get a living woman who walks through a crowd as if she owns them and he gets a broken shell of a girl he's not supposed to want (need) as much as he does.
Or maybe it's just karma for the fact that he wants her as much as he does.
She grabs her luggage and reaches for his, only to jerk fast to the left when he reaches to grab it instead, avoiding his gaze as she steps back and further away, tossing blonde hair over a shoulder as he eyes her luggage warily. He's supposed to carry it for her, thirty years of being told to be a gentleman rising up fast inside, but he knows her better than that.
The way she's gripping it leaves him sure that she'd kick him if he tried to help her.
It's the kind of thing the old Claire, this Claire, would do if he annoyed her.
The fact only makes him want to grab the luggage from her more.
But in the end, when she spins and flees the moment, he just follows silently.
Things will be better soon.
It takes Peter only three seconds standing in Claire's penthouse to decide that this is Claire's home.
She's made it her own in a way that's jarring— there's a media center that takes up one side of the wall by the television, DVDs and CDs carefully arranged. A few books are sitting on the coffee table, bright-colored post-it notes tucked between the pages acting as apparent bookmarks. The remote is lying on top of one, and even as he stands watching she grabs it and flicks the television on, flipping channels until she lands on the news.
But what gets his attention most, drags it from her as she stares at him warily, are the pictures.
Lots and lots of pictures.
Images of the girl from Texas that existed before that life ended, family pictures carefully arranged. Shots of her when she was younger, tangled up in Sandra's arms and helping to hold little Lyle when he was first brought home in a bright blue cap; an array of images of her and her father, a strong-faced man who smiled brilliantly down at her, arm wrapped protectively around her. There was even an image of her and Mr. Muggles, the picture making Peter smile helplessly.
That dog had hated him, started barking and yapping the first time he saw Peter.
"He's just jealous," Sandra had told him pleasantly the few times that Peter had gone to their house before it all ended, gathering up the little dog as it glared at Peter from her arms, sharp eyes warning him. "Claire's always been his favorite, you know. This little guy barks at every single friend she brings home, follows them around the house giving them his stink-eye until they leave."
Peter had liked Sandra even if he had never gotten the chance to know her all that well.
"My place isn't this fascinating."
"Sorry," he manages, but isn't able to tear his eyes away, moving a bit to peer into new directions, seeing what looks like a fridge through a wide doorway. Yep, it's a fridge, polished steel when he looks more deeply into the room. The kitchen's organized, looks clean but not at all empty, a few pictures and post-it notes sticking to the fridge.
He always forgets how much she likes using post-it notes for everything.
Obsessed with them, does everything with them.
"Sorry," he repeats but she just looks uneasy, palms flat against her thighs.
He wants to explore, wants to go through her home because this, the pictures and the notes and the home itself, is Claire (this is how she's supposed to be).
She has a life here, a real life, and he wants to be a part of it in at least some way, even if it's only by looking around.
He glances at her, finds her standing nervously in the middle of the room as she stares at him expectantly, clearly unsure what he's going to do and just as clearly desperate for him to do something. Swallowing, eyes moving to the pictures again, he rocks on his feet as he tries to get a breath, tries to think, tries to process the fact that he's off the plane and in France and in Claire's home.
When it sinks in, it leaves him panicked, lungs closing.
They're alone, and Nathan won't call for a few hours more, he knows.
They won't even be going out anywhere for a few days, he knows.
"I should go," he manages past the pull he feels deep inside, the urge to stay with her, to just be here.
She gives him a bleak look, hurt clearly etched across her previously relaxed features, but he turns away, sure somehow that if he doesn't leave now, he won't be able to and he needs to think, needs to remind himself that he needs to think.
He can't think with Claire.
That's the whole problem.
So he flashes her one last tight smile (he just needs to think) and flees her penthouse as she stares after him, mouth tight.
His penthouse is less than homely.
It's wonderful, certainly, but it's missing any real warmth.
There are no pictures, no sign of any real life, and though stocked, none of it is his.
Peter opens his bags, stares at their contents intently for a long time, but then leaves them sitting on his bed as he looks through his temporary home, opening closets and searching out any sign of anything beyond an expensive place that the family owns.
Claire's place felt more like home for just a few minutes than this has in the last hour since he's pushed his way in.
He flips on the television, stares at it blankly before turning away, wandering through the kitchen.
Lots of food (his favorites, he notices with a grimace he can't help) in a fridge that looks otherwise bare.
The place is empty, just a place to stay.
It's disquieting, the realization that it feels no different from when he goes home after work to his apartment in New York.
Heart beating a bit too painfully in his chest, he finally heads back to the bedroom and starts pulling his things out to spread across the bed in a fit of carefully controlled boredom, counts through the items and then does it again.
He pointedly ignores the stuffed bear glaring up at him from where he had been buried beneath his clothes.
Not that it works.
He wonders where Claire keeps her bears, knows that she would never give them up now— he imagines an area where she keeps them where she can see them, her own private altar to her family, stuffed bears to keep old photos company in the night.
Guilt-ridden, disgusted with himself for getting this whole thing started, for not stopping it when it first started (as if he could have), he finally zips the little guy up alone and stalks to the living room, sits on the couch watching television until his eyelids droop.
But he doesn't sleep.
Instead, he listens to Claire move around her home, unpacking her things, her breathing sounding increasingly ragged.
Listens to her finally climb into the shower and twist the water on high, the sound muffling her movements just enough that he can pretend she's just in there to clean off, that she's not hiding in there crying silently the way he's sure she is.
It's no less devastating than her holiday visits to the mansion, feels the same.
It all feels the same.
When Nathan calls, he doesn't answer, just listens to the sounds across the distance.
Nothing's any better yet.