Elle closed her eyes and waited for the shots to come.
She heard the gun go off again and again and again; she clenched her jaw each time she heard it fire.
When she opened her eyes, however, she was pleasantly surprised to discover she still had a head.
"What..." she began to say. Then she looked at Claire and noticed the younger girl looked equally puzzled.
Not one to waste an opportunity, however, Elle kicked her off her feet and readied a ball of lightning.
"We have to save Claire," Peter gasped.
Mohinder nodded and helped him to his feet. "Absolutely. You go ahead and I'll catch up with you once our guests are back in their cells. It certainly wouldn't help us to have them wake up and..."
Mohinder trailed off as he noticed three bleeding holes in Peter's torso. "When did that happen?"
"Magic trick," Peter explained as the bullets were 'spit' back out and the holes sealed up. "It's all about misdirection."
Mohinder shook his head. "And here I thought you were slowing down."
"I am," Peter admitted darkly. "Take care of this and meet me at the Infirmary."
And then he winked out of existence.
"Absolutely," Mohinder agreed. He was really starting to hate being ordered around like that.
Elle held the gun out at the ready while she let the electricity dance meaningfully off the fingers of her opposite hand. "Now, you're going to give me some answers or we're going to conduct some experiments on conductivity."
"You don't think Peter will have a problem with you torturing his niece?" Claire taunted.
Elle shrugged. "I'm kind of banking on you not having any tell-tale marks or bruises. Now..."
At that moment, Peter popped up between them.
Claire leapt at the opportunity. "Peter," she screamed, "stop her! She's going to shot me!"
"Peter, she's lying, I..." Elle began.
Peter cut them both off with a wave of his hand. "I know exactly what's going on here." He opened his hand over the desk and deposited three used bullets. "Now, you," he turned to Claire "get the hell away from my niece."
Claire's eyes went wide. "Peter."
"I mean it," he growled. "No one hurts my family. Not any more. Now get out of Claire and leave us alone."
Elle looked from Peter to Claire and back. "Peter, what's going on?" She turned to look Claire in the eyes. Suddenly it was all starting to make sense. "Who are you?"
Claire's darted between them in a panic. After a few desperate seconds, she realized there was out. She smiled as her eyes went black. "You really don't know?"
Elle felt a chill run through her, as though nothing would ever be okay again.
"I guess it doesn't matter," Claire said dismissively.
Elle suddenly felt as if a giant hand made of nausea was crushing her. She crumpled to the ground, tearing her jacket off the avoid passing out from the heat of the fever she had instantly acquired. She looked to her side and saw Peter was going through the same thing.
"Claire, don't do this," Peter pleaded. "She's controlling, but I know you stop it. Fight her."
Claire narrowed her eyes and Elle began to feel the sickness taking root behind her face; growing and multiplying. She tried desperately not to choke on her own insides as the pain burned through her.
"Please, Claire," Peter begged. "You're stronger than her! You can beat this!"
Elle weakly brought her head up to survey the situation. As she could have predicted, all of Peter's lovey crap was completely failing to break the Virus' hold and bring the real Claire back to the surface... but she had an idea what would.
"I killed West!" she shouted suddenly.
Claire turned to face her, Peter merely looked confused. Maybe this was actually going to work.
"I killed him," Elle repeated. "On the last 'scouting mission.' He was the leader of the cell we busted, I had to kill him."
And suddenly Claire turned her full attack onto Elle.
"No!" Peter shouted, finally realizing what Elle was saying. "It was me! Claire, I did it!"
"You're lying!" Claire screamed. "You're lying to protect her!"
With his Vision in place, Peter could see the disease writhing and crawling through Elle now; without an enhanced healing factor, she wouldn't survive much longer. "No," Peter swore. "It was me. It was an accident, but... that's no excuse."
"You're lying," Claire repeated, but Peter could see the infection retreating from Elle.
Peter closed the distance between Claire and himself and wrapped his arms around his shaking niece. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't know..."
Elle sprung back up, gasping for air.
Quick, Peter telepathically told her, get out of here, lock the door.
It's okay, he assured her, I know what I'm doing.
Elle nodded and did as she was told.
Claire let her regrets wash over her. All the memories of West; the sweet, innocent boy that had taught her how special she really was.
And she broke.
Peter felt his niece sobbing deeply and bitterly into his chest. He felt the twisting and clawing in his guts. And, for what felt like the millionth time in the last few years, he felt the crushing weight of his failure towards the people that mattered to him most.
Peter took a deep breath.
Then sucked all the oxygen out of the room.
Especially after the day's previous events, Peter felt bad about delivering Claire to the Infirmary the way he did.
Still, she was dangerous as long as she carried the infection and there were only so many ways to render an almost indestructible girl unconscious.
"Knock knock," Elle sang from the doorway.
Peter looked up. "You looked like you're going to see the Ramones later or something," he creaked.
Elle smoothed her hands down the sparkly gold lightning bolt on her bright red t-shirt. "I thought it was cute."
Peter tried to muster up a half-smile.
Elle cocked her head to the side cautiously. "Are you mad?"
Peter shook his head. "Not at you," he replied. "That kid had to be someone's boyfriend, someone's first kiss... and you only kept it secret to protect me and Claire."
Elle sat down next to him. "She's going to be okay, right?"
"Physically, anyway." Peter knew she was really asking him about himself, but the answer was the same.
Elle slowly let her fingers creep across his chest, planting tiny bolts of light wherever she went.
He brought his head back up to look at her. "Are you sure you're ready for this? I mean, after everything that happened..."
Elle smiled sadly. "Everything that happened is exactly why I need this."
Peter nodded and brought a crackling spark to the tips of his fingers. Elle smiled and joined her hand to his, flickering her energy off of his. They both gasped as a rush of euphoria danced between them.
"Shazam," she whispered.
"I've been pursuing an aggressive battery of vitamins and antibiotics," Mohinder explained. "So far, I've seen a significant improvement in all of the patients... Claire especially," he emphasized. "It seems that the Virus had quite a hard time fighting against her enhanced immune system."
"Well, that's good," Molly voice echoed on the other end.
"Yes, absolutely," he agreed. "I just have one question... why does everyone think I'm an idiot?" Mohinder fumed.
"Wh-what?" Molly asked shakily.
"Where is she?" he demanded.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Molly's voice, small and unassuming as it had been all those years ago, crept from the other end of the line.
Mohinder, however, was undaunted. "You don't honestly believe your 'Fourth Man' was that stupid, do you? This 'plan' of hers could not have been a more obvious feint... and I'm not about to believe she's truly dead. Don't forget I created her. Now, Where is she?"
There was a pause on the other line.
"I don't know," Molly admitted softly. "A living, self-evolving virus... she could be in any human being on the planet. Maybe all of them. She didn't tell me anything about that."
Mohinder softened, but only slightly. "And what was she really planning... I've been running over all the different possibilities in my head: was she trying to destabilize us from within? is she trying to lull us into a false sense of security now?"
"I'm sorry, I don't really know," Molly replied. "Maybe this was all to get Peter or Elle out of the way." She thought for a moment before adding. "Maybe she was after you."
"Or maybe," he said after a moment, "this is exactly what she wanted to happened."
When Claire came to, she was strapped down to a bed in the Infirmary, the Machine That Beeps dutifully monitoring her signs. She simply lied there for a moment to feel the cold fury burn through her.
Elle had murdered her first real boyfriend.
Elle had murdered West and Peter had taken her side.
She'd never really believed in what they were doing here, had certainly never believed that Elle had any right to judge who was dangerous and deserved to be locked away, but she had agreed to come along for Peter...
And now West was dead.
She saw now how dangerous this kind of hysteria could be and far gone Peter really was. She knew now that she couldn't trust him anymore.
From here on, there was no one else she could rely on; she only had what she could hold inside herself.
It would just be Claire and her little friend.
Deep, deep inside.