Noah let the blinds slip from his fingertips at seeing the two arriving home. Sandra scowled at him remarking, "Now Noah, you promised me that you wouldn't make this uncomfortable for Claire or our little guest, so come sit down at the table and stop pacing about."
Noah sighed at the chiding only giving her a slight nod and a defeated, "Okay, okay; I'm sitting as we speak." Noah did as he said being sure to sit at the far end of the table facing the door ready for anything unexpected to happen.
Taking Sylar's little hand in her own, Claire protectively led him into the kitchen to greet her father. "Hi Dad, how was your day?" she asked sweetly as she leaned in for a hug before sitting next to him, pulling Sylar towards the chair next to her and then gave him a warm smile. She hoped to engage the two in conversation to ease everyone's nerves.
Sylar tensed immediately at seeing Noah and his plastic smile glaring down at him. If Claire hadn't been holding his hand, Sylar would have likely never entered the house without hesitation. He was quick to take the seat Claire offered, and once he'd settled himself, he warily watched Noah as all his hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.
Noah hugged his daughter keeping a hawk eye on Sylar throughout his smile never slackening as if it were frozen in place. He answered Claire's question as loosely as he could without seeming too uncomfortable with having a serial killer over for dinner, "Oh you know, same old same old. And school?"
"Same old same old," she said with an appraising grin as she noticed Noah's demeanor. "I did have a lot of fun showing Gabriel around the neighborhood, though. It's nice having him here." At this she smiled sweetly at both of her parents before winking at Sylar as Sandra finally sat, having just set the chicken on the table.
Sandra smiled sweetly at all sweeping her eyes across the table before taking up each plate to begin scooping out helpings for each. Seeing the vacant seat had not been filled yet, Sandra called out, "Lyle! Come eat!"
A not too distant cry came from out of the hall bathroom, "Coming!" The teenage boy was like lightening bounding into the dining room with a wet towel from his shower tucked under his arm as he slid into his seat. Sandra rolled her eyes that he was so rushed that he'd brought his towel as well.
Sylar merely kept quiet throughout watching the interactions from the sidelines preferring not to get involved.
With all now in attendance, Noah straightened trying to manage a pleasant demeanor as he asked, "What do you two have planned for the night?"
Claire was quietly laughing at her brother's antics. Turning to look at her father, she gave a questioning look to Sylar. "I dunno. Maybe watch a movie and play some games. You can join us if you can be nice," She answered in a playful tone before looking at her Mom and Lyle, "you two are welcome, too!"
Sandra smiled and responded, "Oh Lyle and I are going to Walmart to pick up the supplies he needs to work on his Science project aren't we Lyle?"
An instant frown appeared on Lyle's face, "Mom! It's not due for two whole weeks!"
Noah was quick to interject, "All the better to get it done then, so you won't have to worry about it later." Turning back to Claire and giving Sylar a wicked looking grin, Noah added, "I can be very nice when I want to be Claire Bear; besides, I am looking forward to hanging out with you two."
Sylar did his best to keep the dread that was filling him at the prospect of Noah and he being in the same proximity for an extended amount of time out of mind as he turned his attention to the food. He smiled sweetly at Sandra picking up his fork and sitting up straight, "This smells great Mrs. Bennett."
"Why thank you, hon," Sandra smiled at him as she picked up her own fork.
Claire saw right through her father's intentions, noting the grin he'd given Sylar. "Well good. We'll let Gabriel pick what he wants to do then," she said as she leaned into his small frame for a one armed hug, giving him a reassuring smile before digging into her own food. After a hefty mouthful, she gave her father a warning look before again smiling at Gabriel, leaving no question that she'd be watching out for the little guy.
Sylar visibly relaxed under Claire's reassurance, and Noah recoiled slightly at seeing his daughter take to Sylar so well. His daughter was no fool, and Noah realized his plan to study Sylar and his reactions as well as his personal distaste for the pint-sized killer would have to be kept low key if he was going to keep Claire comfortable with watching Sylar at their home. Noah didn't really like Sylar in his sanctum, but being a protector, he preferred to have Sylar where he could watch him first hand over having his daughter watch him at Peter's away from his ability to save her if the need arose.
Everyone went silent and clanking forks on ceramic plates was the only sound resonating through the house other than the old Grandfather clock tic-tocking away in the main hall.
Sylar didn't look up from his plate for the remainder of the meal. He hadn't felt this awkward in some time and now wished that he'd never agreed to come here with Claire. Mrs. Bennett was nice enough, but Noah had been a thorn in his side since day one. No, Sylar decided, this was not a good idea, and he was sure Noah was to make this an excruciatingly long night ahead of them.
Having finished her food, Claire shot a glance at Sylar. Noting he seemed miserable and also that he was nearly done with his dinner, she looked at her mom and said, "Why don't Gabriel and I do the dishes for you?"
Claire then looked back at Sylar and gave a small smile, hoping that involvement in the task would ease his nerves since it'd get him away from everyone. Yes, he needed socializing, but maybe it was best to take it easy at first – especially with the way her father was asking. Besides, she could always make popcorn later if he was still hungry.
Sylar was very ready to leave the table as the steadily increasing awkwardness of dining with Noah had gotten to an uncomfortable level. He nodded quickly responding, "Sure. I'd like to do my part." Grabbing up his plate and silverware, Sylar slipped off of his chair. "Thanks for the meal Mrs. Bennett, it was delicious," Sylar added looking to Claire to follow her to the kitchen.
Sandra smiled warmly at the little guy before shooting a 'See, he's not so bad' look at her husband.
"Thought you could use an escape," Claire whispered conspiratorially once they weren't within earshot of her family as she opened the dishwasher.
Sylar placed his dishes neatly in the dishwasher's rack as he lowered his head with a grimace plastered on his face, "That obvious eh?" he whispered glancing up at Claire from under his unruly bangs before looking back to the ground to toe at the cabinet in front of the sink.
Claire grinned down at him while joking, "Yea, you -are- human after all!" She had filled up the pans with hot water and was now easily scrubbing off the stuck on food. "First days are always the worst. So really, this isn't so bad, huh?"
Sylar smiled at Claire amazed at how easily the girl could lift his spirits, "Yeah, I guess it's just going to take a bit of getting used to."
Watching the two depart into the kitchen, Noah grunted thinking to himself, 'And I'm supposed to be the big bad company man, but I can't seem to hold it together enough to fool my teenage daughter.' He sighed going back to his plate deciding to give the two a little space until Sandra headed out with Lyle.
Finished washing the dishes, Claire handed the smaller items to Sylar and set out a towel for him to dry them with as she went about drying the large, heavy items herself. "It is. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you've already won Mom over. Lyle is pretty neutral, so really you're two thirds of the way there."
Sylar's smile widened and he let out a soft laugh, "Too bad the last third is like trying to hug a porcupine."
Claire couldn't help breaking out in helpless giggles, leaning back on the counter for support as she began sliding down to the floor.
Happy that his comment had pleased Claire, Sylar plopped down next to her considerably more cheerful than he had been at the dinner table. Wondering what they could do next, Sylar asked, "So can we go hang in your room or something? I'm not too keen on playing twenty questions with your dad if you know what I mean."
Claire thought about that for a moment, "We could, but Dad will drop in as soon as Mom's out of the house. It'll be private for awhile, though. Or we could get comfy on the couch and put on a movie – whatever you want is fine by me."
Sylar mulled over the options before responding, "Well, if your dad is going to intrude anyway, let's take the small reprieve until your mom leaves… it'll eat up time."
"Ok," Claire agreed as she got up to lead the way to her room. Once in her room she flopped onto her bed. Patting the bed she said, "Make yourself comfortable."
Turning in a slow circle, Sylar took in Claire's room. It hadn't really occurred to him until now, he'd never actually been invited into a 'girl's room' before, and a goofy grin spread across his face as he took in all the cutesy stuffed animals.
Most of them were bears, and on one of the bears he saw Claire's name etched into the belly. Examining the bear, Sylar ran his finger across the stitching knowing in an instant that most of these bears were likely a gift from Noah along with the pet name Claire Bear. It was a different side of Noah Sylar hadn't really thought about, and it put the man in a whole new light. Noah did love his daughter, and so did Sylar, so he made a silent vow to at least try to get along with him.
Turning back to face Claire, Sylar smiled impishly before taking off in a dead run and launching himself up onto the bed beside her.
Claire squealed out in laughter, grabbing Sylar in one arm while pummeling him with a decorative bed pillow with the other as she mock chided between giggles, "You messed up my bed! Look! Look!"
Sylar laughed wholeheartedly, and the echoes carried down the stairs to Noah's ears. The man frowned at the thought of Sylar being so close to his daughter. Sandra on the other hand merely smiled standing to pick up her plate and Noah's, "Why don't you 'try' to like him at least?"
Noah shaken out of his thoughts glanced up bewildered at his wife's words and huffed, "He's a serial killer Sandra. How can you expect me to like that… that thing eating at our dinner table and carrying on upstairs bonding with my daughter?"
Returning from the kitchen, Sandra lifted an eyebrow, "Oh, so she's only your daughter now?"
Letting out a sigh Noah removed his glasses wiping them on the cloth napkin, "You know that's not what I meant…"
Before he could say more, Lyle bounded down the stairs and Sandra grabbed her car keys off the kitchen countertop, "Just try to give him a chance. Remember, you were the one who asked for this situation." With that said, she and Lyle headed for the door. Noah watched them go contemplating her words.
Claire finally let Sylar go, flinging herself back onto her many pillows as her laughter died down. Looking around her room herself, she felt a little embarrassed by all the bears. "My Dad gets them for me, every time he has to leave on business," she said, indicating the bears. Thinking that over she added with a giggle, "I always thought he was so boring and predictable back then."
Taking Claire's cue, Sylar followed suit to fall back upon the mound of fluff turning to face her but having a hard time seeing her through the devouring pillows. He finally rolled onto his side and into her to get out of the pillow's stranglehold a goofy grin ever present on his face. Once settled, Sylar remarked, "Boring and predictable… yeah, I definitely don't see those words popping to mind when I think of your dad!" he joked before pausing a moment and becoming more curious, "So… tell me about your dad. When did you find out… well everything you know now?"
Claire gave him a nervous smile, "When you came after me at Homecoming is when the pieces started coming together. ...but, it's good to know the truth about your family...about yourself."
Sylar's smile faltered at Claire's admission replaced with a frown before he had to look away responding, "Yeah…"
"Gabriel, it's ok," Claire said gently as she snuggled him close to her. "In a way, it was a good thing for me – think about it. If you hadn't hunted me, I might never had known the truth about who I am or that there are others like me. My Dad would still have to be lying to me about everything." She rested her chin on his head, surprising herself with this truth and hoping the admission soothed him.
Claire's words did serve to comfort Sylar, but it didn't erase the guilt he felt over the atrocious acts he had committed. He didn't mention anything further instead opting to change the subject away from himself being involved, "So your dad's been working for the Company for a really long time then?"
"Yea, but I don't know how long. Probably before I was born," she said ruefully.
Sylar frowned at Claire's obvious resentment of not knowing her true father, and at that moment, Sylar felt even closer to the girl in their similar alienation from their peers and loved ones. He reached over and embraced her in a hug feeling she needed one and wanting to comfort her, "Well, life is full of secrets to be unearthed. At least know you're not in the dark anymore. I would think that's comforting."
Claire couldn't help but grin at the comfort, "It is, and I have you to thank for that." Taking another look around her own room she said after indicating their surroundings, "So, is it what you expected?"
Giving the girl a goofy grin Sylar commented, "A room full of stuffed teddy bears? Absolutely!" he giggled his smile widening as he clutched a pillow to lie on and face Claire more clearly before he was swallowed in the heap of them.
Claire tried to hide her smile with a fake irritated face, but couldn't. "Yea, I guess that was a no-brainer," she finally conceded.
Sylar sighed feeling content in the shared silence that followed. He found that he really enjoyed Claire's company these days and could not fathom not spending time with her. On the other hand, he really didn't wish to go back down stairs to face her father, Noah, again, but he knew there was really no getting around it. To hang out with Claire, he would have to sacrifice a little. If they could hang out up here for awhile though, he could at least avoid the confrontation awhile, and so he asked, "Do you want to just stay up here and play cards or something?"
"Are you sure it wouldn't be better to just go down and get it over with? It doesn't matter to me, but the sooner you two can get past everything, the better it will be," Claire said in a gentle tone.
Sylar supposed it would be best, but his brow furrowed in worry all the same. Sighing as he played with a loose thread on Claire's comforter, Sylar rattled off, "Now? I mean… I guess we could, but then we said we'd watch a movie with him, so we don't have to go down there right away... If you want to go now though, we can." He shrugged trying to seem nonpartisan about the whole thing, but his body language spoke only of his built up tension towards the inevitable confrontation to be had.
Claire gave a supportive smile as she looked at him sadly. "We can stay for a few more minutes," her smile suddenly became excited and she jumped off of the bed. "Wanna see my photo album?"
Sylar glad for the distraction nodded quickly, "Yeah; that sounds fun."