Waiting for No One
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. R/R because it's my first fic of 2008.
She cannot count how many times she has been here. Claire Bennet no longer allows herself to count years or months. Once she realized she no longer ages the way normal people do, Claire stopped seeing the point. She always thought it was silly for old people to pick an age and continually insist that they were, in fact, that same age year after year. Now she is in the same position except that it's literal. Claire would laugh at the irony of it but the only laughs she musters these days sound hollow and fake.
She has been to this facility at least once every day though she couldn't tell you for how many years. Time drags on and on for her and nothing ever changes. She has watched the people she loves come and go as if they are moving normally while she is stuck in slow motion. How long has it been since her mother died? Five years since her mother died and ten years since her father passed away? Claire no longer remembers to count anymore. She should be in her thirties now, right? She still looks nineteen, maybe twenty if God feels generous that day. Claire figures it could be worse though she cannot see how. She could be dead like . . . him. Some days, Claire thinks that might be a good idea.
"Later than usual," says one of the orderlies as Claire steps into the building.
"Work," replies Claire absently as he escorts her down the hall. The first time he did this, he took her by the hand as if she was some frail, delicate thing that needed his protection. He learned very quickly from that mistake. Claire isn't exactly Little Miss Innocence anymore. She hasn't worn a cheerleading uniform in a good ten years. Of course, ten years for Claire feels like the half-second it takes for a normal person to blink.
"No change," says the orderly as he shows Claire the cell, "Dr. Suresh came by to see how we were doing but we didn't have much to tell him. You probably know how testy he gets about failure."
"We met a couple times," replies Claire as the orderly unlocks the door and shows Claire inside. If it was any other inmate and this was any other mental institution, such a thing would be unheard of especially considering the inmate's history of violent behavior. This, however, is a private clinic funded by a few interested parties and the inmate in question doesn't show any signs of violence. In fact, Elle even refrains from all uses of her special ability, something that was an anathema to her roughly ten years ago. Some part of Claire wonders if today is the day that everything changes. The doctors are afraid to give Elle any medication due to her already unusual brain chemistry. Claire used to make jokes about faulty wiring but she no longer jokes about anything. She never knows what to feel when she sees Elle. Elle is the reason that Peter is dead and Claire never knows if she can fully forgive the older woman for that. If Elle and Peter had never fallen in love, Peter would never have tried to be the big hero and save her. Maybe then Claire's uncle, perhaps the only member of her family that could help Claire know what it's like to be almost immortal, would still be alive.
"Hey," says Claire as she looks at Elle. Elle took her eyes off her book the moment she heard the door open. She regards Claire with a disappointed look as if she was expecting someone else. Claire has seen that look before. Elle has given her that look every day since Claire first started visiting her. It was Claire's idea to bring Elle here although part of her always regrets that decision. Part of Claire would love to just abandon Elle to her own devices and watch the former sadist mentally self-destruct. Claire knows she can't do that. She and Elle have always had a tenuous relationship, a strange and weird connection that borders on a friendship but always seemed to fall just short of it. Peter cared about Elle more than he cared about anyone in the entire world. Claire tells herself that bringing Elle to this place was what Peter would have wanted her to do.
"They said I had a visitor," explains Elle quietly, "I thought . . ."
"I know," replies Claire solemnly, "It's just me, Elle. It's always just me." She knows what is happening in Elle's head. Electrical currents are jumping their channels and she wants desperately to believe that Peter will come back to her. Claire can see the pain in Elle's eyes and, strangely, it hurts her too. Claire never understood Peter's attraction to Elle. She understands why Elle was attracted to Peter and still is, because it was hard for any girl to find Peter unattractive, but she never understood why Peter chose Elle. He always insisted that Elle and Claire had a lot in common but Claire rarely ever believed him.
"You don't have to baby-sit me anymore," assures Elle as she marks her place in her book, "He's coming back to get me out of here . . . some day."
"Peter is dead," states Claire, "I've told you that a hundred times." In Claire's mind, Peter was always too good for Elle. Peter was the type of guy any girl would want. If the idea of kissing her uncle didn't make Claire feel like throwing up, she would fully admit that she would have dated Peter in a heartbeat. It never adds up in Claire's head just how exactly Elle gave Peter what he needed. Claire wants to hate Elle, really she does, but every time she tries to she comes to this place and sees what a broken mess Elle has become.
"He's not dead!" insists Elle sharply, "He's just . . . hiding so the bad guys don't find him. He'll come back for me. You'll see." Claire honestly wants to cry. Elle says it with such confidence and conviction that even Claire almost believes in the lie. What exactly is wrong about Elle believing that Peter will come back? He did survive blowing up after all. Claire's father came back from the dead and so did Nathan, twice in fact. Claire starts to wonder what exactly is wrong with believing Peter will come back again. Maybe she is also insane and needs to stay here permanently. Maybe she and Elle really do have something in common.
"He's gone, Elle," states Claire, "You're going to have to accept that if you ever want to get out of here." Elle says nothing in response. She simply lies on her bed and stares at the ceiling. Claire wishes she could heal Elle's wounds with her blood but a broken mind is harder to fix than an injured brain. If anything, Claire is afraid her blood might make things worse considering the brain damage Elle still has because of the Haitian's abilities. The shock of reliving those memories might send Elle completely over the edge especially at this point in her fragile state. She knows Elle's mind is trying to heal itself by pretending that Peter wasn't the greatest casualty in the war between heroes and villains.
"You could help him," suggests Elle, "I mean you can bring him back, right? He's not dead but even if he was you could bring him back."
"I can't do that," says Claire sadly, "I'm not God. I'm just a girl."
"You're just jealous," retorts Elle bitterly, "You always were." Claire starts to see it now. Elle is comfortable here because being in this place reminds her of being at the facility in Hartsdale. It reminds her of how she met Peter. In a strange, demented way that Claire can't fathom, Elle enjoys this because it reminds her of the first time she kissed the boy who stole the heart she didn't even know she still had. Claire thinks this reasoning is insane, so completely and utterly insane that it almost makes perfect, logical sense.
"You were the jealous one," states Claire, "You just couldn't stand to share him with anyone, me especially. You thought you had to be the only woman in his life, romantic or otherwise. He gave his own life to protect you, Elle. Isn't that enough?"
"No," replies Elle sadly, her bottom lip starting to quiver, "It was more than I'm worth, way more." Claire remembers how Elle used to brag about having Peter wrapped around her little finger. The truth that Claire knows is that if anyone was whipped it was Elle. Elle would have done anything for Peter because she was so grateful to him for giving her what she had desperately wanted all her life.
"I miss him too," admits Claire as she sits down next to Elle and squeezes her hand, "All the time." Claire just sits there and watches Elle cry. She doesn't do the "sympathy" thing very often anymore but she manages it this time for Elle. She tells herself that Peter would smile if he could see this action.
"You wanna play checkers?" asks Elle as she sniffs and wipes a tear away.
"I can't do it today," admits Claire as she looks up and sees the orderly at the door, "We'll play tomorrow. I promise." Claire no longer bothers to wear a watch. Time means nothing to her anymore. She knows that time is just going to continue. Day after day, she will come here and day after day she will look at Elle as the older woman continues to falsely believe that the man she loves will return to her. Claire used to think that the only person Elle cared about was herself. It was easy to think that considering how Elle enjoyed manipulating people like toys for her own amusement. Elle enjoyed pretending she didn't care about anyone but Claire knows this notion is false. Perhaps things do change and all it takes is time. Time is something Claire seems to have an abundance of these days.
"He'll come back," reminds Elle as Claire gets up and heads for the door.
"I hope so," admits Claire as she turns and gives Elle an actual smile instead of a forced one. She figures Elle deserves at least that much. Claire leaves the cell and wonders if tomorrow will be different, wonders if tomorrow will be the day things change. She wonders when exactly she will stop moving in slow motion. Will it be when she stops moving completely? Will time only start moving normally for her once her life is at an end? Claire lets the orderly take her away and notices an empty cell on her way out. She wonders if the doctors here keep it open just for her.