Title: In His Hands
Characters: Peter Petrelli, Claire Bennet
Spoilers: All of Volume 3: Villains
Summary: Moving past all of the current season, a glimpse of what may come in the next.
Author's Note: This is inspired purely by the leaked title of the forthcoming volume "Fugitives". There are no other spoilers regarding that volume, this is merely wishful thinking.
Credit: To my beta dragonydreams, who remains my favorite in all things.
There were days when Peter Petrelli would swear that he could taste violence in the back of his throat, salty and slightly bitter, only too reminiscent of the copper taste of blood. He'd never noticed it before he'd taken Sylar's ability, and wasn't sure if the idea of that taste came with that ability or if that ability had only brought it to his awareness. With each day that passed, it seemed Peter was finding out something new about himself, or his family, and the world he'd once known took on a different twist of color. Around him the world was changing, faster and faster with each revelation or adventure, and Peter didn't know how to make it stop, or if he even wanted it to.
It was a cheap motel on a random highway in a random state, none of the specifics worth noting. They'd been moving for long enough and without direction that he doubted she even knew where they were. Peter thought that perhaps that was best, that neither of them knew where they were going. He didn't know the abilities of the man seeking them and it was probable that he might have the ability to read their minds a la Matt Parkman, though Peter hoped not. He could block his own thoughts using the Haitian's power, but Claire couldn't.
Peter peeked through the blinds into the abandoned parking lot outside, seeking the shadows but seeing nothing lurking there despite the knot in his stomach. He let them slide shut again and fought the urge to sink to the floor and wallow in the despondency that lingered beneath everything these days.
Claire shifted on the room's sole bed, the sheets sliding a little lower on her hips until a thin line of flesh was revealed and shined like moonlight in the dim light the streetlight provided. She'd only been asleep for an hour but Peter knew through habit that the nightmares would start soon, dreams in which she tossed and turned, growing more and more agitated until she'd wake with a scream and panic in her eyes. Peter didn't let it get that bad anymore, always soothing her with the bedside manner nursing school had imbued him with before coaxing her back to sleep, knowing that the cycle would repeat again all too soon. If it wasn't for her healing ability he knew that she'd be exhausted by now, never sleeping for long or deep enough to truly rest.
Peter turned dark eyes upon the girl he'd once thought his niece and noted the shine of sweat that had formed on her temples. He leaned down and flicked on the air conditioner just under the window, though it would make it hard to hear footsteps should someone come near their door. The cool air slid through the vents with a soft hum and, abandoning his post, Peter moved to the edge of the bed, feeling it dip under his weight as he gazed down at the petite blonde with affection.
They'd been running for weeks now and he still wasn't used to it. He wasn't used to having someone with him so constantly, though he was lucky that it was her. She was one of a few whose company he never grew tired of. The last woman in that category had been Simone, and with a duck of his head Peter relived the pain her passing had caused him. He desperately hoped that this situation would end better.
With another pang, this one of an entirely different nature, Peter recognized that though the situations were different, his feelings weren't that far apart. He struggled to keep his feelings for the much younger woman platonic, but with Sylar's parting words it was as if something had irrevocably changed in him. He could never look at her as his niece ever again because she wasn't. He couldn't look at her as some naïve teenager far beneath his romantic interest, because she was simply...too vibrant, too beautiful, too clever, too observant, too infuriating...she was too Claire for him to ever be able to ignore her or the feelings she caused in him.
Even now, as she lay here wearing only one of his spare t-shirts and boxers, on the cusp of disturbing dreams that would tear her from sleep's embrace, he couldn't help but let his eyes take in the shape of her beneath the sheets. Peter had never given into temptation; he'd never climbed into those sheets with her and held her truly as she'd once asked him to. He was strong enough to refuse himself that small comfort.
He remained ever vigilant, however, because no one could wear down his defenses like Claire. She alone slid under his skin and fit there as if she'd always been a part of him.
Peter sighed heavily and stooped his shoulders, the weight of the situation bearing down on him suddenly and without warning. He didn't know how much longer they'd be in hiding, running from an unseen enemy while Mr. Bennet and Sylar worked to make things safe for him and Claire again. Neither man had seen fit to call and update them on their progress; and so as far as Peter knew, the Hunter was still hunting after him and Claire, hoping to capture them and sell them to the highest bidder, the secrets of their DNA offered up on a living breathing platter.
Claire shifted next to him, turning towards him with a whimper, curling her body until her knees brushed his back and her face was hidden under the smothering weight of her hair. Unable to stop himself Peter reached out and brushed the silken strands out of her face, his fingers lingering on the delicate shell of her ear before sliding away. The warm touch was all that was needed to pull Claire from the tangled beginnings of her nightmare.
Claire smiled drowsily, blinking slowly before focusing her deep green eyes on Peter. "Hey," she whispered hoarsely, her voice dry from sleep, though she made no move for the bottle of water on the bedside table.
"Hey," he replied as he pulled his hand back but turned his body to face her. "You feel better?"
Claire shook her head hesitantly, moving to sit up before realizing that Peter was too close to do so without forcing him to move. With a sigh, she pushed herself into a reclining position leaning against the headboard. "How long was I-"
"An hour at most," Peter interrupted before handing her the water and waiting until she'd drank greedily. "You're still not getting enough sleep."
"S'not like I can die from not sleeping, Peter," Claire replied, only garnering a glare from Peter for her sarcastic efforts. "Besides, you're not sleeping at all."
"Someone has to keep watch," Peter replied slowly, refusing to admit that every time he closed his eyes he saw visions of her. If it was a good day, they were visions of him and her, sometimes doing every day activities like making dinner or watching TV, or sometimes in bed, doing things Uncles and Nieces had no business doing, even if they weren't Uncle and Niece anymore. If it was a bad day, and they usually were, it was visions of her being dissected or tested on, her screams of pain echoing in his ears even when he forced himself awake. Once awake, he could never be sure which version of the visions he preferred, the good or the bad.
"Peter?" Claire repeated his name until he turned to look at her. "We've been together for three weeks now, but we've never..." She trailed off and bit her lip, her face showing her conflicting emotions as clearly as it ever did. For a second Peter almost thought she was implying something of an intimate nature, implying that they'd never consummated the sexual tension that was rising with each passing day. Much to his disappointment, she was referring to something else entirely. She continued haltingly, "We've never discussed what Sylar said to us right before we left. When all this is over, if Nathan doesn't know yet, we're going to have to tell him too. Don't you think...we should talk about it?"
"There's not much to talk about, Claire," Peter replied quickly, before explaining, "Mom...gave him the ability to read the past history of people and objects. He says you're not Nathan's daughter. He has no reason to lie."
Claire's small fingers, still so very childlike, played with the ends of her hair in anxiety as she spoke. "But...how do you feel about that, Peter? I mean, when you were gone for four months I...I grieved for you, Peter. Not just for you, but for the uncle I never got to know. Now, you're not the person I thought you were and I don't know how to feel about it. I still care for you, but without that..." Peter watched her shake her head as if to clear it and realized with a jolt that she was as unsettled in this new situation as he was. "Without that 'uncle-niece' thing between us, I don't know what this is that's going on. Are we friends? Are we strangers running together?"
Peter nodded absentmindedly, his own mind ticking over the circumstances that they found themselves in as her words provoked thoughts he'd not yet had cross his mind. "When we first met, in that hallway in Odessa, we had a connection. After I found out you were Nathan's daughter, I thought that explained it. You were family and that's why we connected so instantly. Then, when we met up in New York it was still there. It's still there now. You may not be family, Claire, but..." Peter bit his lip before smiling at her crookedly. "I like to think we're friends."
Claire smiled back at him, a quirk at the corners of her full lips that never failed to send shivers down his spine. "Friends."
Peter nodded his head to the rumpled sheets around her. "Try to get some more sleep."
"I'm not tired," she whispered back as their eyes locked together and the darkness of the room took on an intimate feel, and the deep connection between them sparked into life as if conjured by the conversation. Peter's hands fisted in the cheap cotton of the sheets but before either of them could do something worth regretting the shrill sound of a ring tone broke the delicious tension.
"Try anyway," Peter said with a fading smile as he reached for the pink cell phone that sat within arm's reach of the bed on the table. It was Claire's but the only person who called on it these days generally only wanted to speak to Peter. "Hello?"
Peter listened intently for several minutes, replying monosyllabically before thumbing the connection closed with a hiss of frustration. "Get dressed," he ordered the watching Claire as he stood and paced to the door, any softness and affection from their conversation gone. "He's closing in; we've got to get out of here."
She didn't bother taking off his boxers or shirt, instead just pulling on some jeans and shoes. Grabbing her backpack and his, Claire joined him at the door and stood silently, the routine of sudden departure having been ingrained into her in the preceding weeks. Peter slipped the straps of his knapsack around his shoulders, leaving his hands free in case he needed to defend them.
The parking lot was empty, but looks could be deceiving. After weeks of doing this, some would think that the sense of nerves would eventually fade away, but he still felt the shaking muscles and adrenaline each time. Deciding that the coast was as clear as it would ever be, Peter clasped Claire's hand, feeling the trembles she struggled to control.
Peter paused and turned to Claire, his fingers strong and sure around hers. They smiled at each other tremulously. "Are you ready?"
Claire nodded slowly. "As I'll ever be."
Peter pulled the door open and the two darted into the night, disappearing so quickly that anyone who saw them might imagine them only passing shadows.
The only evidence that they'd ever been there at all...were the tangled sheets.