There was something so heartbreakingly raw about watching hot tears spill down her cheeks, simple yet powerful sobs escaping her lips.
He told himself he didn't care; he could walk away any time he wanted.
Her presence against him at night, her, wracked with tears, him, rigid with fear, didn't mean anything. He could find the comfort he found when she curled into him, her tears slowing, his body softening, with anyone. They didn't need each other, they were better apart.
Her blonde hair tossed in the New York winds on the roof of the apartment they had been sharing for the past six months since she ran away from home and he let her into his life. The way her body fit perfectly against his as he buried his face into the soft strands and inhaled their strawberry scent was something he could find anywhere. It didn't have to be her.
It couldn't be her because she had just turned 18, she was innocent and hurt and scared and he couldn't take advantage of her, her presence any longer. When he climbed out of the warm bed they shared onto the cold floorboards and into the chilling air he told himself he was doing the right thing, this kind of love you could find anywhere.
They were too reliant on the other, if he was taken from her in some painful twist of fate he wanted her to be okay. To be happy. He was too caught up in the possibility of self destruction if one was lost to the other, he didn't realise that he was inflicting this pain anyway.
She pretended not to feel the bed shift as he began to pack a bag at 5am and he pretended not to hear her cry. They both pretended to not know that this was breaking the other's heart.
He had a destiny, he had to save the world, he would be in constant danger and that wasn't what he wanted for her.
He wanted her to have a life, a normal one, with college boys not twenty something men, with drunken escapes not sombre missions, with laughter and dreams not constant fears and nightmares.
But she wasn't normal, they both knew that. Neither was he.
When he left to stay with his brother, she was sure it was over. He wasn't coming back. He wasn't going to save her from her broken heart; it was that which destroyed her most.
They didn't see each other for two months, seven days, four hours and three minutes. She tried to be as normal as she could be, she went to college every day, and she went to parties every night yet always found herself alone in their bed. She didn't do anything spectacular; she didn't discover a solution to cancer or save anyone from possible death because without him she was just a name, a shell, she was just Claire Bennet. She didn't even know who that was.
With him, she was special, she was invincible. When she called him at two in the morning one night to ask about this he told her she still was all these things, perfect, with or without him.
"You are Claire Bennet. That's the best thing you could ever be."
Then he hung up. She whispered silently to the empty space in her bed, she always wanted to be Claire Petrelli, wife of the man who made her who she was.
He wanted her to find herself, she knew this, he didn't want her to be defined by him, she didn't want to be either but she was, because they were tied by more than Odessa, Sylar and a cheerleading uniform, they had love, life, destiny, forever.
She saw him for the first time since he left her, in the middle of New York City. He had defeated yet another threat to the future of mankind, he was fulfilling his destiny while she was still wondering what hers was. For a second two pairs of eyes connected over crumbling empty buildings and smashed cars and a second later she was crying over the eyes that had vanished, disappeared, hidden from her.
Peter's stuff was still in the apartment four months after he left, she felt bad at first, this was his apartment not hers. Now she just felt angry that he didn't have the nerve to come pick his own stuff up. He sent Matt and Hiro. She was too frustrated to notice the objects vanishing from shelves as they were picked up and reappearing in cardboard boxes.
He received an angry phone call two days later.
"You can face serial killers and worldly threats in the face yet you can't come to our apartment and pick up your crap!" She screamed into her phone.
A sad lilt owned his voice. "It's not our apartment anymore Claire." He hung up.
She was starting to hate him. She concluded that this was what he wanted, for her to fall so out of love with him that she would refuse to do anything connected with him. Her life would be safe, her future normal, completely unlike his. She decided that she would do completely the opposite just to spite him.
She rescued people from burning houses, she took bullets from lone gunman, and she put her life on the line again and again and still she felt alone, angry. Unloved.
One night the old Claire broke through the bitter barrier she wore. She phoned him in a desperate need to hear his voice.
"I loved you and you left."
He didn't answer.
"I still love you and you don't come back. Is it because you don't love me anymore?" She was crying now. He was too.
"I don't come back because I love you too damn much."
He hung up. He never answered her calls again.
She wasn't a naïve child. She wasn't expecting a fairytale, but she wasn't expecting the man she loved, and who loved her to tell her they couldn't be together because he loved her too much.
Mohinder called them all together three months later. She heard from Nathan, who had remained impartial during Peter and Claire's time apart despite his original objections to the pairing, that Peter had at first refused to come. He came though, sitting invisibly the other side of Isaac's studio, as far away as he could from her.
She really felt like a child then, he did too, he was hiding from her like he was a naughty little boy who had broken something; her, and she felt like a four year old who was being neglected and she didn't understand why.
During a short break in the meeting she stormed over to where she thought he was, a chair where the cushion was slightly sinking from his weight. She paused in front of him and reached for him. He wouldn't let her touch him though. His resolve wasn't that strong. He put up a telekinetic barrier between the two of them and in that moment Claire felt more distraught than ever.
The room emptied as Claire began to sob.
"Why?" She cried. "Why won't you just let me touch you, see you?"
"It's better this way Claire." The cushion shifted and he brushed past her. She spun around, angry.
"No, it's not Peter!" Her voice cracked in between violent sobs.
"I can't give you a normal life Claire! This is what I have to do." Gesturing violently to the room as his frustration shut off his invisibility. "I can't promise you anything, I can't give you what you want!"
"Which is what?" She screeched.
"When have I ever said that?"
Peter searched his brain, trying to find an answer.
Claire laughed sadly, quietly to herself.
"Maybe you never said it Claire but I know that it was hurting you. The way we were living made you cry every night!"
"Of course it made me cry Peter, we watched people die, people lose those they love. I couldn't just pretend it didn't affect me. Losing you didn't make that any easier!"
"It's better this way, us apart."
"You keep saying that Peter! It doesn't make any more sense the more you say it!"
"What do you want Claire?" He asked defeated.
She stepped forward, brushing at the tears marring her face. She fingered the edges of his shirt before leaning in and pressing her lips against his boldly.
"I want this. I want you."
"I can't give you normal Claire."
"…good." She whispered before kissing him again.
Maybe seeing the worst in the world together would hurt, but it would hurt a lot less than seeing it alone.