Assassins by SLynn
Summary: It's time to undo the mistakes of the past.
Spoilers: V2/Set Three Months After 'Powerless'
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I'm just borrowing and will return them all when I'm done, virtually untouched.

Notes: This is already very, very different from V3. We'll see if that's a good thing or a bad one.

Chapter 3: The One You Don't

Wishing she'd paid more attention the night before when they'd arrived, Claire crept down the stairs from her room in search of the kitchen. After taking several wrong turns, and the dawning realization that she was going in circles, Claire sighed and plopped down into the nearest armchair in defeat.

"No, no," a woman's voice called out, causing Claire to nearly jump out of her skin. "No. No children are allowed in here. Even if they were, they are hardly allowed on the furniture. It just isn't done."

"Oh," Claire said, too surprised to be affronted, as she jumped to her feet. "I'm sorry. I didn't…"

"This is why I wanted to be here when you arrived," the woman sighed, shaking her head with an irritated expression. "How were you supposed to know the rules of the house if I am not here to explain them?"

Claire just continued to stare at her, unsure who she was and still uncertain why she was scolding her. The woman was probably in her early forties, very tall and thin, with a neat, if not plain, appearance coupled with sharp features which made her appear almost hawk-like.

"I'm Ms. Hannigan," she continued without advancing into the room. "I work for Mr. Petrelli."

"Like as a house keeper or…"

"I am the house manager," Ms. Hannigan immediately corrected, looking more put off than before. "Mrs. Petrelli hired me to oversee the upkeep of her home; that is what I do."

Claire nodded, feeling more and more out of place and out of her element.

"I have stayed on at Mr. Petrelli's behest," she went on, turning and motioning for Claire to follow, "but I assure you, the rules of the house have not changed. First, there are no children allowed in the formal sitting room."

"Where's…"

"We just left it, dear," she said with an exasperated sigh. "Second, children are not allowed to eat anywhere other than the designated dining spots. This means the kitchen, the dining room, and on rare occasions, the veranda. Here is the kitchen," she said, coming to an abrupt halt.

"Morning, Claire," Peter said, looking up from his cereal.

"Third," Ms. Hannigan continued as if he wasn't there, "you appear old enough to pick up after yourself, so you will not unnecessarily burden the staff. This includes me. No one in this household is paid to be your personal servant; no one in this household is paid by you, period. If a door is closed, you will knock. If a phone rings, you will not answer it. Only adults answer the phone in this household," she said, her eyes briefly flicking in Peter's direction. "There will be no disturbances of any kind before nine in the morning or after eight in the evening. If you are not certain you are being a disturbance, than I assure you, you are."

"Morning, Ms. Hannigan," Peter said as soon as she stopped for breath, barely suppressing a smile.

"Good morning," she returned before continuing on as if she'd never been interrupted. "You'll be starting classes on Monday. Bernard, whom you will call Mr. Morales, will pick you up promptly at eight-fifteen in front of the house and will be waiting in front of the academy to return you home at exactly three-thirty each afternoon. Do not keep him waiting. In addition, if you do have any problems, or find anything amiss, you will notify me personally. Mr. Petrelli is a busy man and does not need to be bothered with your petty concerns. Do you have any questions?"

"Um…"

"Excellent," she said, turning quickly on her heels and walking quickly from the room with a series of severe clacks. "Have a good day, Ms. Claire."

Claire stood there for a full minute before Peter finally burst out laughing.

"I'm sorry," he said, once he'd stopped. "I should have warned you about her."

"Was she joking?" Claire asked, taking a seat beside Peter at the breakfast bar.

"Oh, no. She was serious. Very serious," Peter assured her. "She's… um, how do I put this… she's crazy. This job is her life. This house is like her child."

"This isn't some kind of put on or…"

"Where did she find you?"

"I guess it was the sitting room…"

"You weren't sitting, were you?" Peter asked, faking shock.

"I really can't sit in the chairs?"

"Consider yourself lucky," Peter said with a laugh as he got up to clean his bowl. "Until last week she was making me eat over the sink."

"You're not serious," Claire said, shaking her head.

Peter shrugged before turning back to her and asking, "What do you want for breakfast?"

"Are you allowed to use the stove?"

"No," Peter returned. "That's why I had cereal."

Claire only stared at him.

"That was a joke," he told her, moving to the cabinets and fishing out several boxes of cereal. "And, she's not that bad once you get used to her."

"Okay," Claire said, obviously not believing it.

"She's not. She's just… well, crazy," Peter admitted, getting a bowl and spoon now for her as well. "But don't let her scare you. This is your house too. Go wherever you want."

"I guess," Claire said, picking up one of the boxes and giving it a disgusted look. "Do you really eat this?"

"It's good for you," Peter answered.

Claire just wrinkled up her nose at him.

"Fine," Peter said, putting the offending box away and digging further into the cabinet for another brand. "Better?"

"Much," Claire said, taking it and pouring herself a bowlful.

"Here," Peter said, handing her the milk. "Do you want juice? There's orange, apple, grape…"

"Orange juice is fine," Claire answered before he could continue down the list. "So, um, where's…"

She stopped, not sure if she should call him her dad or just Nathan. It was strange. She didn't want to offend, but it was all so new still.

"Nathan?" he supplied for her. "He's in his office. He should be out soon. I think he just had some early calls to make."

"Is he working again?" Claire asked and immediately regretted it, knowing how it must sound.

"Yeah," Peter answered, sounding suddenly tense. "Not full time but… yeah. He is. A few cases. Mostly pro bono work."

"What about you?"

"Me?" he repeated. "No. I'm not doing much of anything right now. I'm still kind of adjusting…"

Claire nodded and smiled tightly, hoping there was more. She wanted to know exactly what had happened, but couldn't bring herself to ask.

"So," she finally began, "are you staying here too? I thought you had your own place."

"I am," he said, relaxing some again. "And I do, but it's occupied right now. Which is fine with me, I like it here. Like I said, it's not so bad once you get past the overlord."

"Is that how you talk about me behind my back?"

Claire and Peter both turned in surprise, finding Nathan in the room with them. Peter laughed it off, protested that they were talking about Ms. Hannigan and not him, but Claire could barely manage a smile; Nathan looked so different. He seemed to have aged ten years since the last time she'd seen him. He was overcome with a ghastly pallor and had to have at least lost fifteen to twenty pounds. Claire had been prepared to see him not looking well, all things considered, but she hadn't been ready for this.

Nathan, momentarily averting his eyes as he cleared his throat, asked, "How was your flight?"

"Good," Claire said after a brief pause, trying not to stare. "It was good."

"And you're finding everything alright in the house?"

"Yes."

"Good," Nathan said, briefly dropping his head. "We're glad you could come."

"I'm happy to be here," Claire smiled nervously.

"Good," Nathan repeated, finally smiling some himself. "Has Peter shown you around?"

"Not yet," Peter answered. "We got in pretty late last night. I thought you might want to do that yourself."

Nathan momentarily fixed a look on Peter, slightly shaking his head.

"You're not busy, right?" Peter continued to prod.

"It's no big deal," Claire interjected. "I can find my own way around."

"No," Nathan said, finally turning back towards her. "I can give you a tour. I don't have anything on my schedule till this afternoon. Peter? Can I have a word with you?"

Peter smiled reassuringly at Claire before stepping out of earshot with Nathan for a quick, low conversation. Claire shifted in her seat and averted her eyes, but that couldn't stop her from knowing who they were discussing. It didn't take them long to hash out whatever it was, but Nathan still looked displeased.

"When you're ready," Nathan said, nodding towards her still full bowl of cereal, "I'll be waiting in my office." Peter cleared his throat, loudly, as Nathan turned to go. He stopped, turned back towards them both and smiled tersely. "It's just down the hall. Second on the left."

With another nod, this time to Peter, Nathan left and for several long minutes neither of them spoke.

"He is glad you're here," Peter said, having heard most of her internal monologue.

"Yeah," Claire agreed sarcastically. "He's thrilled."

"Claire," Peter sighed, "there's a lot… there's a lot going on here that I want to tell you but…"

"But what?"

Peter said nothing, only shrugged and Claire understood.

"He doesn't want you to."

"No," Peter said.

"Why not?" Claire asked immediately. "Don't I deserve to know? After all this…"

"He wants to protect you from this. As much as he can."

"Protect me," Claire repeated sarcastically. "Everyone wants to protect me. I can do that for myself. I just… I need to know. Same as you do; same as he does. This… this thing…"

"I know," Peter cut in quickly, trying to get her to lower her voice. "I do. Claire, I understand. Just, give him a chance. Please. Give him a chance and give him some time. Nathan is trying, really trying, to do the right thing. For you. For all of us. You need to trust him."

"Trust him? How can I trust him if he won't trust me?"

"Okay then," Peter said, shaking his head. "Trust me. I trust you, so… trust me."

Claire looked down for a moment before ultimately nodding her head and looking Peter in the eyes.

"I do trust you, Peter," she said, "but it's hard… I don't know him. Not really."

"He's not…" Peter returned, stammering momentarily. "He's not easy to know, Claire. I can't lie to you. I'm sorry you're not getting a perfect family here. I'm sorry you left… He really does want what's best for you. I do too. We're both… we're trying, Claire. That's all I can say. It's not going to happen over night."

"Alright," Claire said with a short nod, "but I don't want to be left in the dark. I want to know what's happening and I want to be involved. That's why I'm here, Peter. That's why I came."

"I know," Peter sighed. "I know, but…"

"No buts," Claire interrupted. "I'm going to be involved."