AN - - - This one's been lurking about in my head for a disgustingly long time, and I started it ages ago, and just now finished it. Needless to say, I love the beginning and middle, but hate the end. Ah, well.
Huge credit to Sara Bareilles, to whom I owe the entire plot of this story (the quoted song has always made me think of Peter, Claire and Caitlin, and her entire first album of Heroes in general). Beautiful music, I tell ya. Oh! I nearly forgot. The setting in this is mildly AU - this is set as though, when he accidentally takes Caitlin to the future where the Shanti virus wipes out most of the human race, he somehow manages to rescue her, and they go back to live in that little cottage she took him up to.
Oh! I nearly forgot. The setting in this is mildly AU - this is set as though, when he accidentally takes Caitlin to the future where the Shanti virus wipes out most of the human race, he somehow manages to rescue her, and they go back to live in that little cottage she took him up to.
Please review, especially if you have an idea how to make the end better - ugh.
My memory is cruel,
I'm queen of attention to detail,
Defending intentions if he fails,
Until now, he told me her name,
It sounded familiar, in a way,
I could have sworn I'd heard him say it ten thousand times,
Oh, if only I had been listening.
-Between the Lines by Sara Bareilles
She had never been happier, and yet never more alone. Caitlin had always been a particularly loved child – the first girl in a long line of boys. She was a princess, showered with companionship and love.
So it was a bit of a culture shock, the way Peter treated her. And she loved him, more than she'd ever loved anyone before, but he was definitely very different then what she was used to. He was the original tortured soul; tall, dark and ruggedly, but somehow vulnerably, handsome, somehow kind but hurt, confused, and upset, evoking a simultaneously maternal and passionate response in any poor woman he happened to stumble across. Not to mention the amnesia, the mysterious, seemingly endless super-powers, the crazy, lethal people chasing him, and how beautiful he had looked, bruised, beaten, shirtless and tied to a chair.
But nevertheless, he had saved her, fixed all the mistakes he could, and regained his memories. But this last bit, particularly, had changed him. His ability to paint the future captivated him these days, and he would spend hours locked away in the back of Caitlin's little sea-side bungalow they'd taken up as their residence for the time being, skating along on Caitlin's small retirement fund and the money Peter's brother occasionally thought to send him, as though hoping that supporting his current agony would convince him to come home soon. The oils and canvas were simply burning through the money, but Peter never thought to stop, and Caitlin never thought to ask him.
Since he'd come back and saved her from the future, he'd spent minimal time explaining it all to her, and had slowly drifted away. She never thought to leave, never thought to kick him out and go back to the pub to work. Caitlin had never had to kick anyone out, never wanted to, either, especially not someone she loved so dearly. She spent most of her time curled up on the love-seat that used to squarely face the fire but she'd now angled subtly towards the door he hid behind, or making dinner, thinking all the while about how she could save him from himself, from his past.
Once he'd invited her in to what had suddenly become his room and she'd gone eagerly, curious what could keep such a usually sensitive, sociable man hidden away from her.
The walls had been plastered with his own paintings, and the drapes from the windows had been pulled down and the windows left wide open, exposing his bare back to the cold ocean breeze, but he didn't seem to notice. Most of the paintings – and there were hundreds of them – seemed to have been tossed dispassionately around the room. It seems he had painted anything and everything, but it also seemed like nearly every picture had at least a little bit of the same person in it. Sometimes it was only her foot, and other times she was the entire focus of the painting, but she was nearly always there.
He watched her expectantly as, curiously, she tentatively reached out one hand to brush a painting that hung at eye level. It featured the girl's profile as she sat, gnawing at the eraser of a pencil in a classroom. She was portrayed all bright blue eyes and golden curls, so intricately and painstakingly copied down from Peter's mind's eye, Caitlin almost believed it was a photograph.
"Claire," he breathed behind her, suddenly close as he reached out one hand to brush her hair away from her face. Instantly, her heart raced, but when she looked up at him, Peter was still staring at the painting.
"My name is Caitlin," she said as solidly as she could, but her voice broke nonetheless.
His laughter came, cold and startling as he pulled away. "I know that. The girl, in the painting. Her name is Claire... Before... Before I came here, she was... Well, I'm not exactly sure what to call her. But she was always there."
And it hit her, with the force of a freight train. He may have cared for her, Caitlin, before, but not anymore. He'd retreated into the past, his present, not the present he was living now, but the present he should be living now. As he stayed huddled in her back room, painting day after day, he stayed with this, this Claire and anyone else he knew and missed, but couldn't go back to for fear of putting them in danger.
She tried to regain her composure and turned, gnawing her bottom lip, to see he'd already picked up his palette and brush and started painting again – he'd started on the teenage girl's hair, Caitlin could recognize the golden curls that were reflected a hundred times over around her.
Defeated, she closed one of the windows on the way out, murmuring something about the cold. She heard him get up and open it again before she closed the door behind her.