Title: Lunch Dates
Rating: R (light sexuality langauge)
Pairing: Claire/Niki
Genre: Humor, Romance
Spoilers: S1, certain aspects of S2
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me; I just like playing with them.
Notes: Written for femslash08 on LJ

Teaser: Their lunch breaks were never boring.


The first time Niki Sanders saw Claire Bennet, the girl's face was tear-streaked as her father held her.

The first time Niki Sanders actually met Claire Bennet, she'd been a widow for six years and Claire Bennet was working for Noah Bennet, resident scary son of a bitch manager of Niki's branch of the Company.

-

"Your father once told me he'd never let you work in the Company."

"Things change."

This young woman was small and soft, had eyes that had darkened in the years since Niki had first seen her, walked around with a sureness that Niki had only ever seen in Adam the few times they had crossed paths through Company business.

As she watched, Claire continued to pour sugar into her strong-smelling tea, looking unnervingly at home in the cafeteria of the Primatech building, pale blouse clashing against the bright orange plastic booth behind her. Claire was at home in her skin, sure in her body, and Niki had only ever seen it once before.

"They do?"

"Didn't this use to be Linderman's company?"

Niki glanced up from the coffee to green eyes, felt the corner of her mouth twitch at the slight smile that greeted her.

Claire Bennet, the scary daughter of that scary son of a bitch Noah Bennet.

-

"…so Adam says he can wait since things like sexual orientation stop mattering as you get older."

"And?" Niki prodded, curious despite herself at this image of Adam Monroe, smug son of a bitch director of the Company who dropped by every so often to intimidate them.

Or at least try to intimidate Noah.

They had a deal going for the moment—they needed Adam, his ability to keep the Company from descending back into the chaos it had become when Linderman and the others had stolen it, and Adam needed protection from vengeful sons who wanted him back in a coffin under a block of cement.

"I asked him if that meant what I think it did— at which point he started telling me about the joys of sexual discovery after you hit that two hundred mark." Claire paused, grimaced. "So apparently I'm going to be a big fat ho for anything that moves by the time I get to four hundred."

"Being a ho will probably be the least of your problems by then, judging by Adam," Niki sighed, swiping her plastic spoon around the inside of the salad bowl and sucking whatever hint of taste she found off the plastic.

"Stop comforting me."

It was nice to have someone to talk with during the lunch break at the facility, a woman who wasn't completely insane (hello, Elle) and understood some of Niki's innate weirdness. There had been Monica before the younger woman had moved but no one since Monica.

"So how did you come to work here?" she asked curiously, as Claire chewed her way through the ham sandwich.

The most quietly powerful organization on earth, and always growing, and their lunch was like cardboard.

"Decided to do what I was good at after the last few years and at least this way, I'll get paid for saving the world," Claire shrugged, "and I might as well get used to being involved with the Company."

"That sounds depressing."

"I prefer realistic."

"Still, you're young…"

"Adam's already told me he's leaving me the Company in his will, in case anything should happen."

"Adam has a will?"

"Yep, and not that big, either— he wants to leave dad as senior manager and me as director."

"…seriously?"

"He says dad is the only one he knows who's scary enough to do the work and I'm the only one who'll be able to keep it going— unless my protégés turn against me on one of my crazier days and lock me up for thirty years. Oh, and he said to beware people from the future because they'll fuck me up for life. He's left me a list and everything, although he says he'd still prefer we hook up in a hundred years and travel the world."

"And this traveling would include sex, of course."

"Of course," Claire smirked, leaning back and draining her tea. "But I also get all his earthly riches if he ever dies."

"So how long have you known Adam?"

"Few years, since he tried to do that thing with Madagascar."

"What does he have against Madagascar anyway?"

"He says he blames them for those movies, with the zebra and the lion and those funny little penguins. That 'move it, move it' music drives him completely insane."

"I like those movies."

"So do I."

-

There were always funny stories when you worked at the Company.

Between the two of them, the lunch breaks were never boring.

"I've never heard of two specials working together."

"Well, dad prefers me to work with someone who has a power that's slightly more useful than mine."

When she'd decided to pursue a career in the Company, Claire had first started working with someone she called Uncle Claude, an apparently cranky British invisible man who spent his spare time having awkward conversations with Noah and letting Claire name his doves. ("Doves?" "Okay, fine, pigeons—but you should see his eye twitch when I call them doves in front of him.") She'd spent a few months working with Monica ("Wait, our Monica?" "Is there any other who reenacts her Top Ten favorite Olympic moments?") and was now working with Jake, that telekinetic who went around showing off his kids' pictures to anyone he could corner.

Niki hadn't even known Monica was doing active duty these days.

Micah stayed in touch without any problem but Niki worked so hard that it had been a while since she'd had a chance to talk to her family outside of her son.

"How is she, anyway?"

"Excitable, but good under pressure, always up for a challenge."

"That sounds like our Monica."

-

"So, attached?"

"Trying to be… but our kind of life…"

"Yeah," Niki sighed.

"And my last relationship ended… badly."

"Oh?"

"She tried to cut my head off when I refused to support her desire to rule the world."

"…seriously?"

"Yes."

"I didn't know you were gay."

"Is that a problem?"

The tone was odd and Niki hastened to get rid of it, not wanting Claire to think it bothered her.

God knew she had screwed her share of women over the years.

DL had never cared but a few of her romantic attempts since then had been disastrous when they found out.

How bi could be worse than a history of violence, she'd never know.

"No, I just didn't know."

"Oh," and Claire nodded, relaxed as other employees chatted around them, as the rare explosion rang out.

-

Niki's power was useful.

Despite a bit of extra durability, though, she was as mortal as anyone else.

And lifting burning hunks of metal burned her hands, left her in pain as the nurse watched the healer eased the burns, ugly red splotches melting slowly back into pristine pale skin. They'd gotten her back to the facility to get her taken care of after she'd fought her way out of the warehouse, sat her down as they worked through her injuries.

"You know, between the two of us, we'd have the perfect power," Claire announced, coming into the medical ward with a chipper little smile and a bag of burgers, holding the shake up with a grin. "Here," she ordered, bending the straw and ignoring the dirty look from the healer, holding the cup as Niki sucked up what she could, a chocolate and strawberry mix.

"How did you know I was here?" she asked when she was satisfied for the moment, and got a grin in return, Claire setting the bag down on the bed and gesturing down to the cell hooked to her belt.

"Dad called me; told me you were going to be a bit late."

"So you brought me lunch?"

"Technically dinner," Claire chirped, still ignoring the glares being settled on her. "But you were busy so I don't mind missing lunch every so often." She unwrapped a burger, set it on Niki's thigh and flashed an overly perky little grin at the healer and the nurse. "You guys want one?"

They just looked at her.

It wasn't like they were able to eat lunch together every day— Claire went out of town constantly for weeks at a time and while Niki stayed close enough to be with Micah when she wasn't working, she was run ragged same as Claire was. They were both able to handle themselves, were both assets the Company used as often as possible.

But when Claire was in town and she wasn't working, they always had lunch together.

"I feel like I'm in high school again," she laughed uneasily as she flexed newly healed fingers and snatched up her burger, crushed it a little bit as Claire cocked an eyebrow and smirked. "What?"

"You say that like it's a good thing."

"Didn't like high school?"

"Nah, high school didn't like me."

-

"And here's where she's climbing the walls," Jake explained, tapping the picture as they sat together in the Primatech cafeteria, showing off the little girl that literally was climbing the walls. "Isn't she just the most gorgeous thing ever?"

Beside him, Claire looked amused as she met Niki's gaze across the table.

"Adorable," Niki agreed, lips twisting in a shared humor with Claire as Jake put his wallet away and dug out his cell, scrolling easily through pictures before holding it up to show them both proudly.

"This is my son before we were able to get him out of the tree."

"So he…"

"Flight," Jake grinned proudly, flashing a little beam at Claire. "I was thinking… maybe…"

"I'll give him a call, see if he can help out with the basics," Claire promised in a way that suggested she had made the promise several times already. Jake looked giddy, beamed as he started scrolling through his pictures again, but it left Niki feeling awkward, too uneasily aware of the fact that Nathan Petrelli was Claire's father.

She wasn't even sure why it unnerved her but it did, left her furiously aware that she was a widowed mother and a professional and that Claire was younger by too many years to be anything other than lunch friends.

Not that she was interested in Claire because she wasn't, not at all, not in the slightest.

Besides, she was sure Noah Bennet would shoot her if she tried anything.

-

In heels, Claire was almost as tall as Niki was.

It was a random observation made as they moved through the line one afternoon, as Claire was reaching forward to snag a little Styrofoam bowl of bright orange Jell-o, blonde braid sliding forward to fall across one shoulder. Then she straightened and Niki looked away, grabbing a Jell-o of her own (blue instead of orange).

"Micah said Matt threatened to shoot him?"

Niki closed her eyes for a moment, sighed. "It's fine, he doesn't mean it, he's just overprotective of Molly."

"Not as bad as my dad," Claire chuckled, brushing free strands of hair from her face. "Every time I'm interested in someone, he has them followed for three weeks and then insists on meeting them at home while Uncle Claude goes through their car and plants a tracker…"

"They track your potential girlfriends?"

"Do I look like I'm kidding? And that's even before the family dinner where Dad accidently jabs my date with chopsticks. Unless it's a barbecue and you don't want to know what he accidently does when he's working the grill."

Niki stopped, glanced over, but Claire just stared back, eyebrow cocked.

Shit.

-

It was an accident.

Really, it was.

They found themselves working together and it had been an accident so Niki wasn't worried, not at all.

Claire was popping a shoulder back place, looked small in Jake's overcoat, hair falling across her face as she checked herself over, hands probing as she made sure she was properly put back together. "Want to pick something up before we go back to report?" she asked curiously, and Niki swallowed as Claire opened the coat to push a rib back into place, revealing massive amounts of otherwise perfect skin.

Claire wasn't embarrassed, of course not— how many times could you get burned down to nothing but bones before you stopped being worried about what somebody saw after you healed?

"What?"

"Food," Claire clarified, tying the coat closed and lifting her hair out from under the collar with a lop-sided grin.

"Can you… eat?"

"Starved, actually," and Claire added a wink, a hint of something teasing in her grin.

Well, maybe it didn't really make her a pervert because Claire was an adult, all grown up, so—

Niki kissed her, fast and light, a quick press of her mouth against Claire's, hand coming up to brush a collarbone through the coat, increasing the pressure at the last second before pulling back. Flushed, excited, she swallowed when the smaller body stepped closer, body warm even through the heavy material.

"Six months."

"What?"

"I should have just thrown myself out of a burning building a few weeks in. We'd probably be fucking right now…" She stopped, eyes widening into a full-on look of horror as she caught sight of something behind Niki. Snapping her head around, impossibly strong muscles in her arms tightening in preparation, she could only jerk in her own quick breath of horror.

Noah Bennet stared at her across the distance, slowly opened his jacket and stroked a thumb across a pistol.

Shit.

-

It had been a long time since Niki had made out with someone like a teenager.

Full-on crazed necking in a back hallway of the Primatech building, heavy breaths against her skin as she traced a breast through a hastily opened blouse, pushed more firmly when the body against her shivered in response.

Still, Niki kept one eyeball on the hallway, watched for any hint of horn-rimmed glasses.

"Stop worrying," Claire ordered in a heated voice, pushing her back against a wall and dragging her mouth down, grazing teeth hard against Niki's neck until a palm settled on her ass, pulled her forward possessively.

"But what if he shoots me?"

"I can protect you."

"But he's Noah Bennet."

Claire shrugged, lifting Niki's shirt up and out of her pants, tugging playfully as her belt buckle. "I got it all set up."

-

Micah was giggling.

Claire was smiling like some kind of demented villain intending to take over the world.

Bent together over Micah's iPhone, they whispered together as Niki watched with narrowed eyes.

"What are you two doing?"

"Nothing," they said together, and exchanged a look.

There was a reason she was always hesitant to bring Micah to work— he was better adjusted than many of the other people his age connected to the Company, but he had still been through a lot in his life. Most of his work could be done through Hannah, they had found, but sometimes Noah needed him there to handle things in person, things so top secret that not even Niki knew everything about them.

After that, he usually ended up eating lunch with her and Claire.

"Tell me what you're doing."

"No," they told her calmly, and exchanged another look.

They were going to be the death of her.

-

Claire was going to be the death of her.

Niki was sure of it even as she lounged, sated, across the bed as the air conditioning to the side left her back frozen, as cool fingers brushed hair from her neck and a mouth moved across a shoulder blade in a way that made her skin tighten.

Claire was too young for her— hell, she was practically jailbait when Niki thought about the first time she'd seen her, a crying teenager in New York in her father's arms and, oh shit, Noah was going to fucking shoot her, would kill her super-strength or not.

"He doesn't know we're here," Claire murmured softly against her spine, moving upwards to press a quick kiss to that spot under her ear. "Micah set it up so that it looks like we're at a history museum."

"Until he breaks down the door…"

"But then you'll break down the wall and we'll escape, go on the run like Thelma and Louise."

"Didn't they die at the end?"

"I'll survive and I'll bring you back to life."

"I should be disturbed that you have this all worked out, shouldn't I?"

"Thank mom, too— she's the one who distracted them while Micah handled the physical stuff."

-

In a museum in northern Texas, the two men were silent.

Finally— "I'm going to fire that kid."

"He doesn't even work for you."

A beat, a hesitation as glasses were cleaned off, put back on. "Then we'll help Parkman break up his dates with the walking GPS, see how he likes that."

"What about Sanders?"

"It's okay— we still have the family dinner to explain how these things work."

"At least you'll get a grandkid from this, and a near genius, too. Hell, you'll never have to buy a new computer, you lucky bastard, you're set for life... Don't you look at me like that, Four Eyes. I'll throw your ass off a bloody bridge."

"I didn't throw you off a bridge—"

"Fine, I'll shoot you and you'll tumble off into a life of loneliness with a bunch of doves."

"You're never going to let that go, are you?" Off the smirk— "And I thought they were pigeons, Claude."

"Shut up - you and I both know you like this one better than the last few, Mr. Let's Call Claire To Tell Her Sanders Is In The Medical Ward."

-

6/14/08