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Chapter Six: Long Road to Ruin

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The following week was a blur to Claire, but it was a happy blur. She and Peter were flirting discreetly, rubbed their feet against each other under the dinner table and making excuses to meet in her room in the evenings. On one such evening, they were sitting on the edge of Claire's bed and Peter was kissing her neck gently.

"Peter," Claire said breathily, clutching his hair.

He just mumbled against her skin, making it vibrate slightly and sending her eyes up to the ceiling. Had she wanted him to stop? Was there something they needed to talk about? Why on Earth would she want to talk when they could be doing this for the rest of their lives?

His hands started running up and down her sides, brushing against the side of her breast every time. She gasped slightly and stopped all matter of thought. Pulling him down against her, she started to lower her back onto her bed. He followed her movie, raising himself over her, leaning on his elbows. Their mouths never lost contact and were still battling against each other when Claire felt a surge of courage and slipped her hands under his shirt.

Peter made a sound against her mouth when she lightly dragged her fingers over the defined chest she had fantasized about more than once. She was starting to feel light-headed and gently gripped the bottom of his shirt, dragging it up. Their lips broke contact for a second and then his shirt was on the floor. She kissed him lightly once, twice, and then she pulled back, admiring the sight before her. She let out a sound that made Peter almost growl and kiss her again, with more force this time.

Things were starting to get out of control and Claire didn't really know if she was ready for it, but she wasn't about to stop his mouth anytime soon. It trailed kisses along her jaw, over her neck and sucked on a spot just below her ears, making her see something resembling stars before her eyes. She could feel him smile against his skin, and then his mouth went lower and lower, almost touching her bra.

"Peter," Claire suddenly gasped without even thinking about it. "Peter, stop."

He instantly looked up at her with very dark eyes and frowned. "Why?"

"I," said Claire nervously. "I don't – I've never…"

Peter's eyes widened. "Oh. Oh God, Claire, I'm sorry! I didn't even think –""Stop," Claire said again, placing her finger over his lips. "It's okay. It's probably been a while since you've been with a…" she trailed off, blushing profusely.

"Are you?" he said, eyes still wide.

She nodded, biting her lip nervously. His eyes fell on her mouth.

"You probably shouldn't do that, then," he said in a low, almost dangerous voice.

Claire let her lip go and looked at him, realizing how close he was. His delicious weight was on her and she could feel his breath on her face. He seemed to come to the same conclusion and sat up, grabbing her hand and helping her into a sitting position as well.

Claire rested her chin on Peter's shoulder, and she could hear and feel him let out a small breath.

"I feel happy with you," she said in a quiet after a minute's silence.

He didn't smile. "You probably shouldn't," he just said.

"Doesn't matter," she said, smiling. "I still do."

He was quiet for a while, and then he said in a very rough voice, "I wish you didn't."

Claire could feel her heart being pierced. She removed her chin from his shoulder and stood up, hugging herself and facing away from him. Fine, then, why did he make out with her all over the place? She could feel a hesitant hand on her shoulder and sniffed a little.

"I don't understand why you say those things to me," she huffed, not turning to look at Peter.

"I do it because someone has to," he said quietly. Claire could hear regret in his voice.

"But you don't have to kiss me," she snapped in a louder voice. "Or does someone have to do that, too?" she said sarcastically, wiping her eyes quickly. She would not cry in front of him.

"You're not really giving me a choice in the matter, Claire!" Peter snapped. "You look at me with those eyes and… I would like to see anyone resist it."

Claire had turned around now. "I'm so sorry that I fling myself at you at every possible moment. It won't happen again, trust me," she said in a low and cold voice.

Peter winced, "That's not what I meant."

Claire sighed heavily and sat down on the bed and stared at the floor. "What did you mean, then?"

He crouched down in front of her, placing on hand on her thigh and lifting her chin with the other. She met his eyes with a defiant glare and he sighed. "I'm starting to fall for you," he said softly.

Claire stared at him with wide eyes, but didn't say anything. What could she say? That she loved him? Did she really love him?

"You don't have to say anything," he assured her. "I'm just giving you the facts here. I'm starting to fall for you, and that isn't good. I'm older than you and we're…" he trailed off. "Well, you know."

Claire resisted a shudder. She knew, and very well.

"You just…" he said, looking like he was struggling to find the right words. "You make me forget myself and the resistance I've fought to build against you. Because you've always had such a huge impact on me, and I wouldn't let myself fall. But, well… here we are, and I'm trying to avert a disaster."

Claire didn't know whether she should kiss him or slap him.

"A disaster," she repeated in a hollow voice.

"I can't tell you," he whispered.

"Fine, then," and she turned away from him, grabbed her pajamas and toothbrush and headed for the bathroom, not sparing him a single glance or word.

She cried in bed that night, feeling misunderstood and alone.

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The following week was very awkward and quiet. Nathan noticed the icy silence, but didn't ask a single question. Claire thought he might have been afraid of the answer. She was spending a bit more time with Nathan, and found that she really liked him. Under all that stiffness and discipline was a very warm and humorous man, almost fatherly. She didn't think she would really think of him as a father anytime soon, her wounds were still so raw, but it was nice to have him there to talk with. Especially now that she had lost Peter's comfort.

Peter couldn't be found in the house a lot. He wasn't out on mission either, so Claire couldn't figure out where he spent all his days. What if he had met someone?

Her chest burned with a sudden fire, and she had to take a steadying breath. What if he had found an older woman who wasn't related to him? Someone who was beautiful and strong and much more fitting than she was.

"Claire," a voice suddenly said. "Claire, are you alright?"

She looked up with tear filled eyes to see Heidi leaning over her with worry in her face. Heidi grabbed a kitchen chair and sat down next to Claire, placing a hand on her back.

"No," she sniffled, looking at the table. "I'm not alright."

"Oh, sweetie," said Heidi, hugging her with an arm and leaning her had against Claire's. "Do you want to talk about it with me?"

Claire glanced at Heidi for a moment. Could she tell her? Would she comfort her and tell her everything would be okay or would she scream at her and kick her out of the house? Claire couldn't risk the possibility.

"No, that's alright," she said quickly. "I'm just being silly."

Heidi looked at her doubtfully. "Are you sure –"

"Yes," Claire interrupted her. "I'm alright."

Frowning, Claire's stepmother nodded and stood up. "Let me make you some lunch, then."

Claire forced herself to smile and looked back at the table as Heidi started scrambling through the refrigerator and pulling out pots and pans.

She really, really missed Peter.

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Peter opened the door to the apartment and hurried inside. "Mohinder?" he called out, closing and locking the door behind him.

"Peter, finally!" came the frantic voice of Mohinder Suresh, and he came rushing to meet him.

"What's wrong?" Peter said, feeling more nervous by the minute.

Mohinder turned around and went into his office, and Peter trailed after him.

"It has begun," Mohinder said, showing Peter a stack of what looked like paparazzi pictures. A dark haired boy was standing outside a building Peter recognized as a hotel in town.

Peter could feel a cold hand clamp around his heart, and only one word left his mouth.

"Claire."

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Author's note: Sorry doesn't quite cut it, does it? Here's the chapter, and please review if you want more. Things are finally starting to happen!