Claude never ceased being amazed at just how many of New York's super rich didn't bother to lock their doors. If ten years ago someone had told him how many supposedly intelligent people felt perfectly secure hiding money in sugar jars and literally under mattresses he never would have believed it. It was almost too easy.
He'd just finished cleaning out a penthouse of cash and easily hocked valuables and knew the place was deserted. Nevertheless, as he closed one final drawer Claude heard a sound coming from the darkness of the hallway.
He froze. The apartment seemed perfectly still, but as he strained to catch any out of place sound he realized that it was the wrong kind of still. There was a trick to silence.
The absence of sound could be as damning as a shout to someone who knew what to listen for. As the seconds ticked by Claude's instincts told him there was definitely someone else there. Someone trying too hard to be quiet.
His fingers curled around a letter opener on the nearby desk; not as good as an actual knife but it would do if things came down to a quick and dirty fight. As he turned he heard the scuff of shoes against the wood floor and glimpsed a figure shadowed in the doorway. He had just enough time to register that there was something familiar about the silhouette when he heard a soft, very familiar voice: "I thought you said you were leaving town."
Claude relaxed. The list of people who could see him or who even knew to look for him was very, very short; if he was going to be tracked down, better it be Peter Petrelli than the alternative. "According to you there's still almost a week 'till the big bang. And I thought I told you to stay away from me."
Claude heard the floorboards creak as Peter shifted his weight. "Yeah, I know, I just...I wanted to see you."
Claude sighed. Like a lost little poodle. "How'd you find me, anyway?"
"I met this girl once. She's good at finding people."
Claude felt a shiver go down his spine. Knowing there was someone out there with that power all but guaranteed that sleep was a thing of the past. "And so now you are, too," he sneered. "Well, you found me. You said you wanted to see me, you're seein' me. Now if we're all done here--"
Peter came at him like a dark blur before he could even finish the sentence; the letter opener clattered to the floor as Peter shoved him so hard against the wall so hard his teeth snapped together. He expected Peter's next move would be to belt him across the face and Claude was big enough to admit that he probably deserved it.
However he'd forgotten Peter's knack for the unexpected. Peter's lips pressed hard against his and for a moment he was too surprised to move, then he opened his mouth to the kiss and the taste and feel of Peter came rushing in. Claude would never tell him so, but Peter could do amazing things with his mouth. The first time they'd kissed Claude had felt it down in his bones and came up wondering where the hell that had come from. Peter pressed against him, his hands clutching onto Claude's clothes as if he couldn't get close enough. Peter had kissed him before, but not like this; this was something new, something dark and aggressive and needy all at once. Usually Claude was the one pushing Peter up against walls.
He suspected part of it was that Peter tasted like booze, and when he finally paused for breath Claude could smell it on him, too. "You've been drinkin'," he laughed, he then took his first good look at Peter and tensed up. Claude pushed him away and backed up as far as he could, his heart pounding in his ears like a gong.
This wasn't Peter Petrelli. Not the one he'd left in that apartment a few days ago. This was a stranger with Peter's face, a stranger in black clothes and swept back hair, hard and old around the eyes. The change in the eyes was almost drastic enough to overshadow the livid, diagonal scar across his face, as if someone had decided to have a go at him with a sword. "Who are you?" Claude whispered.
Claude watched him rake one hand through his hair, a classic Peter Petrelli gesture that betrayed his nervousness and was made the contrast of this Peter to the one knew even more surreal. "I have this friend," he finally said, drawing the words out slowly as if he hoped that if the explanation took long enough he wouldn't have to complete it. "Hiro can bend space and time--that's how he explains it, anyway. And you know how it is, if he can do it I can do it." He shook his head. "He's probably gonna be pissed off that I did this."
"Did what, exactly?"
Peter took a deep breath. "You can do a lot of things, bending time. Teleport, freeze time...travel through time. Hiro's still better at that than I am, he's practiced it more."
Claude let out a bark of laughter. "You expect me to believe you can travel through time?" he said, but even as the words came out Claude knew that he did believe it. He heard the words maximum potential echo in his mind. "All right, fine. You traveled through time. I take it you're supposed to be from the future, then?"
"Yeah. Not that far out, but yeah."
He reached out and tipped Peter's chin up, examining the scar. "How the hell did you manage this?"
"I bet." Claude studied Peter for a long moment, the dark clothes and especially the dead, hopeless eyes. "It happens, doesn't it. You explode."
Peter nodded, his hands buried in his coat pockets. "It...it was too much for me. Too much power. And I didn't even have the ability yet when we were training, so it's not even like if you'd stayed it would've changed anything. If I'd gotten it earlier, maybe, but I didn't have enough time."
"Says the time traveler," Claude said, fighting down a quick flash of shame. Peter believed that it wouldn't have made a difference, but Claude knew Peter had lots of nonsense floating around in his head that wasn't true. He'd made an astounding amount of progress in a very short time, it might have made a difference. It was possible he never would have gotten the power in the first place. Guess we'll never know. "You have a handle on things now?"
Peter laughed. "Yeah. Yeah, actually you show back up...I mean, you will... and say that 'we're gonna make sure it never happens again if it kills you.'"
It sounded like something he'd say, even through Peter's dreadful attempt at his accent. "I don't go around dressed like that too, do I?"
"No." Peter's mouth curling into a smirk that almost made him look like himself again. "Actually, the first time you saw me again you asked if I knew kung fu."
Claude chuckled and leaned against the windowsill. "So what're you here for? Some future mission I should know about?"
"Fuck, you think I have a plan?" Peter's voice wasn't quite breaking, but it was getting there. Claude kept his ears pricked up. "I didn't exactly think this through or anything."
"That's right, you wanted to see me." He saw Peter flinch. "Isn't that right?"
"Yeah," Peter said in a dry whisper.
Keeping Peter off balance was good. Keeping him off balance let Claude ignore the feeling of ice water slowly filling his veins. "Am I dead, then?"
Peter's whole body tensed. "I am, aren't I," Claude pressed. "In the future I'm dead. That's why you couldn't do whatever it is you do to find me and see me there." Peter shot him a desperate look, and Claude didn't need to be able to read minds to know he was thinking Stop.
Claude didn't plan on being accommodating. "That's what's goin' on here, isn't it." Peter wouldn't meet his eyes, and really, that was all the answer he needed. He let out a long breath and gripped the window ledge; suddenly his legs weren't quite up to the task of keeping him upright. He heard Peter swear, a long repeated string of "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
"How?" Claude whispered, his eyes trained on the floor. Peter didn't answer, and Claude raised his head. "Tell me."
Peter tried to turn away but Claude darted from the window and grabbed his arm. "Oh no, you don't get to drop in, play the Ghost of Christmas Future and then clam up."
"I shouldn't have said anything in the first place, I've probably already fucked up the timeline as it is."
"In for a penny in for a pound, friend. Tell me--"
"You get shot." Claude let go of his arm and took a step back. "By Homeland Security."
"Homeland Security?" He let out a disbelieving laugh. "I'm movin' up in the world." Peter's eyes were boring holes into him and he had to turn away. "At least a bullet's quick, right?"
Claude shut his eyes and took long, deep breaths. The memory of gunshots was suddenly all he could think about. "Everything's all fucked up," he heard Peter say. "We keep fighting but nothing works."
"Was it Bennet?" Claude turned back to Peter, who looked at him like he'd started speaking in tongues. "Him and the Haitian. Is that how they found me? Did the Haitian turn me off?"
"No," Peter said, a mirthless smile on his face. "They didn't need him. They had a telepath."
"Can't hide from that." He swallowed hard; his mouth was so dry his words came out in whispers. "How long?"
"Man, I really shouldn't--"
"Stop it, Peter. We both know you're tellin' me."
Peter shook his head. "How long until the election?"
"About five days."
"Three years and almost two months."
Silence filled the room as Claude kept repeating the numbers in his head. For most of the past decade he'd known that death could come any day with just the slightest slip up. It was an entirely different world, having an end date; Claude found himself counting every breath, every heartbeat. "Was I at least doing something worth getting' shot over?"
Peter let out a short laugh. "If you think there's anything worth getting shot over."
"Did once. Things change so much in three years that I'd think there is and you don't?"
Peter rubbed his hands over his face. "I don't know. I don't know. I'm just...I'm tired of losing. I keep trying to fix things, 'cause I'm responsible for all of it and I know it. Every second of every day, I know it."
"You can't save everyone, Peter. That's not how it works."
"And you know what, you warned me not to trust him. You told me telepaths always go bad, but I didn't want to listen. I didn't want to believe it."
Peter was rambling, his words running into each other; as reluctant as he was to talk before the words were pouring out now. Claude grabbed his arm to force Peter to face him and noticed something odd. He paused, shifting his grip so that he had Peter by the wrist.
On more occasions than he cared to remember while working for the Company Claude had wound up with blood all over his hands, and contrary to what the movies would lead one to believe it wasn't a lark to clean off. Once or twice when he was too tired to be thorough -- or went right for the scotch as soon as the door was closed -- he'd wound up with rusty stains under his nails.
He remembered that they looked just like the ones under Peter's. "This blood?" he said, watching Peter's reaction. Peter kept his eyes averted, and the certainty of the situation hit Claude like a blow. "Is this mine?"
A flash of pain crossed Peter's face; it was as if Claude had stabbed him. "You were there," Claude said.
"I tried. I tried to fix it but it was too bad, there was nothing I could do. I couldn't do anything."
"Shh." He regretted making Peter talk; he could already see the scene as if it was in one of Peter's blasted paintings. "You don't have to..."
"You didn't like the plan, you said something about it bugged you, but I didn't want to move back the time table. You said you were with me, but you still didn't like it..."
"Shut up." Claude leaned forward and kissed him; a second later he heard Peter whimper deep in throat and felt his lips part. Peter's hands moved to his waist and Claude started unbuttoning Peter's coat. When Bennet had shot him the worst part hadn't been the pain or even the betrayal -- the worst had been lying on the bridge, not able to move, knowing he was going to die there alone and no one but the Company would know.
He didn't let Peter rush; he stretched each kiss to last as long as he could, savoring each sensation as long as he could: the feel of Peter's tongue in his mouth, the way his hand brushed down his ribs. He reached up to run his hands through Peter's hair and pulled him closer; he could feel Peter's heart beating through his skin. He moaned and almost lost his footing as Peter ground against him. He slammed hard against the wall, Peter kissing him so hard he almost couldn't catch his breath. Peter's hands were up under his shirt now; when Peter touched a spot on his midsection he knew that was where the bullet
had hit. He was shaking and could feel that Peter was, too; Claude just hoped he was hiding it better.
He didn't want to die. He wasn't sure if there really was anything worth getting shot for, but at least if that was how it had to be he knew it wasn't going to end with him alone and bleeding on a bridge waiting for death to come.
Peter took a long, shuddering breath and just leaned against him for a moment. "I don't know what to do," he whispered.
"Stop tryin' to save the world and look after yourself for a change."
Peter smiled. "Yeah. That's what you said then, too."
"Sounds like you should start listenin' to me, then."
Peter kissed him again, slowly. Afterwards Claude knew there was no way to hide how hard he was shaking. "Fuck," Peter said. "I told you before I'm not so great with the time traveling; if I stay out of time too long it snaps me back like a rubber band. I can feel it starting."
"Just get the fuck out of New York, all right? For real this time."
Claude nodded. "No argument there. I'll...be seein' you, then."
Peter cracked a smile. "Yeah. Yeah, guess you will."
Claude blinked his eyes and Peter was gone. He leaned against the wall and took a long unsteady breath. The rational part of his brain tried to convince himself that had been a particularly vivid hallucination.
Except that he could still feel Peter's breath on his skin.
"Just get the fuck out of New York."
If he hurried he could be out of the city within the hour.