Title: Voice Like Ruin
Rating: R (possibly disturbing imagery)
Pairings: Hiro/Claire, Hiro/Adam (implied), Adam/Claire (if you squint really hard)
Spoilers: Right up to 2x11 "Powerless"
Disclaimer: Heroes does not belong to me; title from Thea Gilmore
Notes: So, I finally gave up and gave into the urges of some of my smaller plot bunnies— Hiro/Claire and Hiro/Adam— and then I decided to go ahead and kill two birds with one stone when they started talking to me excitedly. What I ended up writing was this: what will go down as quite possibly the weirdest fic I've ever written— if anything works for you, please tell me, I'm… really not sure about this one, especially with Hiro, who's always been hard for me to write. An incredible amount of squishy love to gidgetzb, who did an amazing job betaing this and calming me down because, again, weirdest damn thing I've ever written. For reals, yo.
Teaser: Around him, her voice sounds like ruin.
Adam's still buried when Hiro meets Claire Bennet the first time.
It's a surreal realization that he didn't yet actually know her despite how important she was, the Cheerleader that he (the man he could have been) had bended time and space to save (to save the world).
There's chaos around them, confusion, and he knows her; although he doesn't.
But then things calm and they part ways again— and then the world tilts beneath them and they stumble back together, exchange awkward words and share unhealthy cereal over cartoons.
That visit she's gunned down and even though he knows about her power, he drops down beside her, reaches out only to stop when she chokes, coughs, twisting as she gags up a bit of metal. It leaves him rattled, swallowing down something sick inside as she freezes at the look on his face, falters.
"I'm fine," she tells him slowly, seemingly thinking he didn't know what to think of a person dying and then coming back.
And he realizes she doesn't know anything about Adam, understands it in a flash of insight.
He stops thinking and hurriedly pulls her to her feet as the sword hangs heavy against his back, as he reaches out to brush blonde hair from her face without thinking and now it's his turn to freeze and falter when she stares up at him warily.
Claire has everything and nothing to do with him, with his future and his past.
The dead man from the future who told Peter Petrilli to save her life would never exist.
Hiro's still trying not to think about who his father really was (he has the records now of his father's time with the Company).
Hiro's still trying to forget a grave in Japan and guilt he doesn't want to feel whenever he glances at Claire.
Hiro's still waiting to feel like the hero the non-existent samurai in the future was.
When they finally part ways that time, he acts on impulse, acts without thinking.
Slides his arms around her form and feels her weight when she abruptly drapes against him, small but strong.
Then her hand pushes the sword at his back slightly and he pulls away, squinting down at her blankly through his glasses.
He thinks of her every night that they're apart before chaos returns, before they're brought together again.
The third visit, there's only a shadow of the girl there.
An adult now, with tanned skin and long hair that's darkened from blonde to true gold, and her eyes are impossibly green.
She's quiet and tense but the smile that curves her lips when she sees him is pure, sincere, leaves him to grin excitedly back.
Leaves him to wave like an idiot from across the room where he had popped into existence a second before.
Much later, after they've handled business, he makes her eat sushi despite her threats that she'd eat it over her dead body.
He wins the argument that isn't really an argument— and then chokes on a laugh when she sends food flying across the room the very first time she tries to use chopsticks.
Then Claire stares at him and clicks the chopsticks threateningly and he stops laughing.
Awkwardly pushes his glasses up his nose a minute later because she's still staring at him, still holding the sticks too firmly.
Eyes too bright in a way they hadn't been before he'd left last time.
He opens his mouth and draws a breath but the words spill out of her like tears.
"He's dead—" and Hiro already knows that Mr. Bennet is dead but he doesn't dare say anything. "Sylar killed him."
"He's dead and there was nothing I could do—"
"Claire," and he curls his hand around hers, feeling the chopsticks tremble between her fingers as she hides behind her hair.
And so the courtship is over before it truly starts.
A half-dozen visits pass before she tells him she wants to go to Japan.
There is nothing left in New York for her and she follows him to Japan, fits herself into his life as if she's always been there, an ever-young woman made of dark gold and dusky green. He feels embarrassed at her side sometimes, a round man who doesn't understand the company he's inherited, the one he's simply a figurehead for, but then she glances at him from across the room in her bright dresses and smiles at him and he doesn't care.
He promises himself that when he proposes, he'll do it in a fall of cherry blossoms.
But when he does, it's at their weekly dinner where she eats slowly but steadily with chopsticks.
It comes as no surprise when things are made official even if no one's completely sure how it really happened.
Kimiko smiles thinly and stares at him hard but that's not a surprise.
She's always been much smarter than Hiro, knows him better than he does.
(He rarely thinks of graves that hold the living or his father's private files.)
He wonders what his father would have thought of Claire.
But then he wonders why he even cares what his father would think.
His father would have kept a man like Claire in a box for thirty years.
(He doesn't think about the grave that holds a man like Claire.)
He promises her every year that he'll take her to the cherry blossom festival but he avoids it each time.
She asks him, finally, why he won't just take her.
After all, he'd promised and he'd kept every other promise to her.
He doesn't say anything, can't even stutter his way through a lie.
Doesn't know himself why he doesn't want to take her.
Eventually, she stops asking.
At some point, he becomes more than a figurehead for his father's company.
At some point after that, he begins to read his father's files again, sees them for the first time.
And if he's hiding it from Claire, working hard not to let her know—
He doesn't let himself think on it, watches her every weekend during their dinner while she eats expertly with her chopsticks, fingers working as if she's always used them. She fits almost too easily into their life in Japan and his board members adore her, respect her and tell him constantly that his father would have loved her as well.
She tastes like salt, and her hair falls dark gold against her back.
They have ten years together before his sister comes to tell him that there's an empty grave in Japan.
He had never truly forgotten the grave and yet the truth had dimmed, faded in the face of the life Claire had offered him.
Claire's still asleep when he goes to the grave, stands and stares down, thinking of the sword that's never far from his side.
"He broke his way out of the coffin… and then the concrete cracked at some point," Kimiko tells him softly. "None of the men reported a disturbance."
He nods but doesn't move until he sees for himself.
Until the dirt and bloodied concrete are lifted away to reveal what remains of the coffin, taking a step back and closing his eyes at the sight of what Adam had done to himself to push himself free through the cracks of his prison.
Hiro thinks of what Adam can survive, how much of his own body he can sacrifice—
Hiro thinks of the thirty years that his father kept a secret and swallows thickly, turns and walks away from the grave.
He waits for something.
But time moves on and he's getting older and Claire is young but not, soft but not because time is hardening her—
She knows nothing about Adam, nothing of Hiro's sin and the words are always in his throat, an unspoken confession.
He says nothing of Adam and nothing of his work with his father's company (work that he's started up again because his father wasn't completely wrong, they have to be prepared) and nothing of thirty years that he doesn't know what to think of anymore.
(He doesn't tell Claire that he's built new facilities to keep the studies going.)
Adam is still missing, and yet Hiro sees him everywhere, out of the corner of his eye when he glances at Claire.
His board members comment all the time, how well she's aging.
Somewhere, he thinks he can hear a clock ticking.
Realizes later on that it's always been ticking— he just hadn't been listening.
(Wonders how long Adam screamed before he managed to get free.)
Claire's hair tumbles dark gold against the black of her dress as she flirts playfully with his elderly board members.
She's allowed to, the work she's done for the company and besides, they always like the ego boost.
An ever-young woman who flutters her eyelashes at them, smiles like a cat.
She smiles at him across the room and leaves him feeling helpless.
(Like there's no air.)
He thinks he catches sight of a compact man, handsome in a dark blue suit, whispering into Claire's ear.
But when he blinks, attempts to smile back, Adam's gone again and Claire's staring at him as if she doesn't know him.
It's an accident that he's there that night, that he notices the light beneath the door of his personal office.
The office with locks that even Claire doesn't know the combinations to.
Time has already stopped for Claire but it stills now completely, leaves her still and silent as he opens the door, gazes at her.
The light from the computer monitor leaves her face shadowed with blue, and he takes her in, the girl he met years before.
The girl saved by the man he'll never be.
When he lets go, relaxes his hold, she doesn't jump up, doesn't fall into hysterics.
Instead she tilts her head back to meet his gaze, eyes too wide and too bright.
He says nothing and she's silent, pushing his chair back in as she pulls her coat on, lifts her hair out from under the collar.
She abandons him alone in his father's office, the fading sound of her clicking heels leaving him in silence.
After that, Claire dresses in white.
They fake her death because they have no choice, because he cannot deal with the questions with so much power beneath him.
His own voice sounds wrong (right) to his ears as he reads his dead wife's eulogy, knowing she's at home waiting for him.
Someone sends him a bouquet and condolences, a single slashing name dark and bold against the white paper.
When he gets back to his wife in her mourning clothes, she wants to know who Adam is, wants to hear his side of it.
(He wonders how much Adam has told her.)
He doesn't tell her.
His head is filled with Claire and Adam, and he dreams of Claire standing at Adam's grave in white.
Claire's moving like a ghost around him, silent but not still, stares at him like he's a stranger.
He's never lost her before, and this is the first time he's betrayed her—
(He can't lose her again.)
You're becoming paranoid, Ando tells him one night over dinner.
Two days later, Ando's dead, pitching himself off a roof.
(Hiro knows what really happened.)
Three times, he goes back, and three times, it's useless.
Time is not so easy to manipulate.
Adam wants Claire, he's decided, and Hiro wishes Ando was at his side, to pull him back.
He wonders if the new facilities would hold up for thirty years.
He doesn't know what he's waiting for.
Adam is missing and Claire is a dead woman who doesn't trust him, will not forgive him.
He does try to explain himself once, at the time when, before, they would be eating their weekly dinner together.
(There was a man, once, and when I saw you—)
But she walks away, and he waits for her to turn back.
(Another person that Adam Monroe will take from him, like Takezo Kensei and Ando—)
His wife shrieks when they take her away, golden hair tangling around her face, screaming as they drag her backwards, as one heel slips off in her struggles and they pull her through the doors.
(Ando would have stopped him.)
The screaming becomes dimmer as they drag her deeper down to the holding rooms, but it echoes through the facility, fills the air around him, burns against his skin until his lungs can't fill completely—
(Seems to shake the ground beneath his feet.)
—and her voice sounds like ruin.