[taken to the floor with the reach to the sky.]
The light streaming into the bathroom is sterile and surreal, almost white through the thin shower curtain. The towels are still damp and the mirror stained, but it's silent and chilly and she can think in here. About what, exactly, she's still unsure; concerning what, she's terribly knowledgeable.
Her hands are shaking, smeared with someone else's blood, and she clings to a piece of porcelain. Her fingers are wrapped tight against the sink as if she can force the shivers running down her body right into the square, direct down the metal drain. Can send them rumbling through the pipes. They're terrible, these goosebumps on her arms. They make her back ramrod straight, they come from the cool air against her neck and the cold fear tight in her stomach. It's a solid brick, this fear, heavy in her heart. Icy against her chest.
Forcibly, she loosens her hands.
Her fingers splay out over the edges of the sink and she tilts her head down so she doesn't have to meet her own eyes. She blinks, seeing but not processing. It's a little thing, Elle's desperate departure, especially compared to the way Claire left. It's a little thing, this breaking apart. It should be. But maybe it's where Elle's running, and why. Maybe it's the first honest loss Claire's ever experienced and that's why it sits rough in her chest like a blockade. Like a chokehold.
She knows Peter is curious, and maybe annoyed. She knows better than to leave him by himself right now but she thought she knew better than Elle Bishop and look how everything turned out. Look how everything turned upside down. She should be running, if the glass shard sticking out of Peter's arm is any indicator, but she just needs a minute. She just needs a minute.
She left Elle there.
Didn't leave her, exactly. More like Elle left her. But she feels guilty all the same, because she's the one who drove away. She's the one who cut the final tie. She blinks hard, but there's no tears. Just a blur in her vision like dust in her eyes.
She could still fix it- she can feel the idea burning beneath her skin. She could drive back. She won't (can feel the lassitude like molasses through her veins) but she entertains the thought for a second. Thinks about walking inside, moving swift, throwing fists. Stealing Elle away.
Two knocks on the door and Peter's voice, low and concerned, edging on confused.
She blinks and the sink comes back into focus, her fingers twitching against porcelain. She steps back, looks toward the locked door.
"I'll be out in a second." She answers, gaze flicking back to her reflection. Her eyes are too wide, her skin too pale. She looks so heart broken it makes her cringe. She twists the knob on the sink and it protests, squeaking angrily, before cool water spills into the basin. She fills her hands and ducks her head.
[and i say, you can't get enough. now you can't get enough.]
This has got to be the stupidest stunt she's ever pulled, this has got to mean trouble, this is trouble. This is so bad she can feel the curious twinge of fear curving in the bottom of her stomach. She can't remember a time when anything besides Claire Bennet and dumb feelings scared her. It's making her itch. She presses her fingers along her ribs.
She tips her head back against the wall and the cool cement feels nice against her hot head, feels nice compared to the burning nerves scraping against her skin. Her volts are still running, spinning, cutting. She lets them. She's not even resisting- she knows its punishment. She knows how this goes- she wrote how this goes. She's gonna sit here for a long time. She's gonna be scared for a long time and it might even get so normal that the twinge will never leave.
She knows how this goes. It doesn't stop the tremble.
Her eyes are shut, but it'd be hard to tell the difference anyway. The room is dingy and damp and the only light is coming from the electricity sparkling across her skin. It flashes behind her eyelids, too, and makes it easy to confuse distortion with reality. She's trying to confuse distortion with reality, trying to spin herself out the way Claire's hands do.
She's lost Claire. She's gonna lose herself.
And it's so much in this room- too much to pay for a dumb mistake. She's cold and hot and betrayed and beat down. There's nothing left, there's no Claire, there's an empty ache. She left. She ran. She's dead.
Minutes pass slowly, marked by the rips beneath her skin. She's tearing herself apart. She's gonna end it. If she can't help it she might as well embrace it. It's- shit, is this how it goes? There's no beat to follow, no hoops to jump, just solid thoughts set on fire by burning bones. She's crazy and not in the way she knows, not where everything hits her a weird way. She's crazy in that way where nothing hits her, where consequences and responsibilities melt away under the burn in her brain.
The door opens and he walks in and her bones catch, her joints lock, her heart stutters to a stop. She doesn't have to flick her fingers. The electricity escapes from every single pore, punishing in its wild, uncontainable fury. Exhilarating in its pure, vindictive drain. She's gasping and he's in pieces and the room is suddenly nothing but black.
She's suddenly nothing but black.
[now it's your time and you know where you stand.]
Her swing goes a little too left, slices past Noah's cheek, and he shakes his head, corrects her stance.
Claire digs the board into her palm when she curls her fingers a little too tight and the dull ache makes her heart beat a little faster against her ribs. Makes her feel a little more here, as if she's actually in this room, actually learning these steps. As if the marks in her palm are really lingering there, healing so so slowly, red lines that she hasn't been able to press onto her skin for months. It makes her angry, really, the pain, and that she can really feel.
She's irritated. She's been irritated for a while now, has let it build up right inside her chest, a weight against her ribs. It's not just frustration, it's loss and ache and the insecure effects of not knowing. She dreams up answers and then tears them down. She's heard rumors and knows facts, longs for truth. There's a murmur that echoes ElleElleElle against the walls of her brain even when she sleeps, even when she falls, even when she desperately tries to drown it out.
Even when it becomes a part of herself she hates.
He lunges at her again and she bites back a weary, frustrated sigh, lurches left instead. She swings, a little less clumsily than the time before, and the wood connects with skin and bone. Noah grins, Claire's hands ache, and it just makes her want to hit him harder.
Claire thought, maybe, for about the first five minutes that she was powerless, things could go back. But almost as soon as the thought entered her mind, Noah took it away. Reminded her there was nothing to go back to, nothing but lies and misconceptions and, truthfully, nothing but him. Nothing but his lies and misconceptions and sometimes painfully clear insights. So Claire hits back and tries to smother the quiver of fear low and tense in her belly, the fear of guns and broken bones and knives that she's lost her immunity to.
When she sees Elle, the fear disappears. It's such a stupid, uncontrollable reaction that it's impossible to combat. Elle, with her determined gaze, with her pale, powerless hands, with that soft mouth set in a hard line. A flicker of a shadow flits across her features when her eyes meet Claire's, but she smothers it with a sadistic smile. Claire is unnerved to realize she can tell it's faked. It's a second, maybe two, but their eyes are wild and scared and predict events better than their minds.
Sylar appears from behind Elle and Claire's stomach tightens for a second before she realizes he doesn't have his powers either. The four of them argue, pointlessly, and then Noah pulls out his gun and they argue without anymore words. Claire thinks, more than once, that maybe she should just go with them. Noah would never allow it, but she can't see a reason why she shouldn't. Kind of stupidly just wants to be around Elle.
She tries to stay out of the way, wrestles with the need to do something, shoots glances in Elle's direction. The gun goes skittering across the hardwood floor and then Elle is cradling it in her hands, pointing it across the room. Noah's finally turning around and Elle curls her finger on the trigger.
Claire can't let it happen again.
It wouldn't have mattered who was shooting the gun, wouldn't have mattered the time or the place or the reason. She finds it physically impossible to stand and watch, she finds it mentally impossible to restrain herself. The gun goes off and it takes Claire a second to realize she's in the air and there's a flash of hot pain against her stomach and Elle's smile falters, almost falls off her face, and then Claire hits the floor.
[counting on the night for a beautiful day.]
His dark hair, twisted tight between her fingers, is not the same as Claire's. His eyes, shut or steady on her skin, careful or blurred by desire, are not the same as Claire's. His skin is darker, rougher, not the same as Claire's. The way he breathes when he's inside her, the tense of his shoulders, the slope of his back, it's all different from Claire and that's his saving grace. He is everything that won't remind her and it's the only thing damming Elle's need. It's the only thing calming her emotions. He is nothing.
He, Sylar, Gabriel, the man with a weapon for a brain, has soft eyes when he looks at her. He sticks by her side like he was made to stand there and when she touches him at first it's only to find out if he'll pull away.
He doesn't, of course. She was expecting that.
The pieces of him grind together as unevenly as Elle's do and she likes to push them further apart, likes to fit herself into the cracks. The sex means nothing. She wants to crawl inside him and take him apart from the inside out, discover what he finds so fascinating about the process. She wants electricity between his atoms, crawling along his neuroses.
She thinks because they're both so dark they can't pull apart. They may be like magnets, they may be like super glue. Her hands smooth over his body, her muscles pull toward him; her body is trying to forget the feel of a heavy gun and the kick of its release. The sound of a bullet through-
He has knives for eyes, sometimes, when he's this close. She remembers the way he rips people apart and the way she rips people apart and wonders if they've changed, wonders at the block on her brain. There's blood on the floor in the hallway and its dried on her shoe and she can still feel the kick of a heavy gun. Can see the rips-
She knows Claire's not dead because her own heart is still beating but she thinks she may just bleed out. She thinks she may just ask him to rip her apart. After they're through, she lets him sleep. She lies with her eyes shut and replays the times she's had Claire beneath her hands, the times she's seen Claire with holes and broken bones.
This is different. This is real.
Later, when the bullets hurtle toward them, she almost forgets to flee and the dark spots inside tell her to hesitate.
[now i'm no longer an ordinary man.
was this your big plan, your gun in your hand?]
Her fingers hover over her stomach, searching for ghost pain and an invisible scar. The car bumps along another road, turns toward their neighborhood, and slides past more scenery. The dark outside is heavy against he car, creeping inside and in between her and Noah. She wants to yell at him but she just snipes, she wants to breathe a sigh of relief but nothing feels finished yet. She's dead, she's been dead, she's still breathing.
"I died." She tells Noah, looking for a reaction.
"When?" Is all she gets. The frustration inside her, the disappointment, cuts along the edges of her nerves. She dreams, briefly, of getting back into the car and driving it away. Maybe off a cliff.
"Why does it matter?" She spits, because she has some hesitant fear that it does matter, that her death is just another piece, just another continuation. She won't be the end.
"It matters." He answers, and then he's jogging toward the house and Claire's hesitant fear turns into terror and she's sprinting after him. "Where's your mother?" He asks, eyes traveling down the hallway.
"She's with us." Sylar's voice, almost familiar, signals his entrance, and Claire's heart stutters against her chest. One firm hand clutching Sandra near his side, Sylar glares at Noah and pushes the woman roughly ahead. Elle follows behind and her eyes briefly meet Claire's, but Claire can't find anything she recognizes. "We're taking Claire with us, that's what we came here for." Sylar threatens.
Why doesn't she just go? She not scared. She almost anything but scared. Hopeful, desperate, needy. What could be terrible about running away with Elle Bishop, with her hands and her mouth and her quick eyes and her new boyfriend. She knows Elle can't hurt her, has seen the careful curve of Elle's touch, has seen the stark pain in Elle's eyes whenever she has to.
But Noah just glares, eyes furrowed behind horn-rimmed glasses. Claire sees the end before it begins.
[trying to recall what you want me to say.]
Sand clings to her legs, crumbles off when she takes slow steps toward the water. The sun is slipping below the horizon, not giving much of fight, ready to see this day over with. Elle has no objections. Her mind is so preoccupied with a single person that she almost feels sane. She's fixated, pulling up snapshots of Claire, playing short films over and over in her head. She pauses where the waves stretch, where they reach to cross dry sand, and she stares at the lapping water, hardly noticing when it climbs over her toes.
The smell is like nothing else. She's never had to stand it for so long. It's heavy on her tongue, thick in her nose, wafting into her brain, and she'll never be able to escape it. It creeps into everything.
It smells like power, like success. It smells like betrayal. It's sickening but then so is she.
She crosses her arms, curling her fingers under her shirt, and slips the material off. Her jeans follow, the clothes tossed further back on the beach. She moves into the water, digging her toes into sand, reminded of Claire on the beach with wild eyes and a quick mouth. Two feet in and she dives, pushes her head under the water and opens her eyes. All she sees is dark. She doesn't know how to swim but it doesn't matter. She doesn't even know where she is, just that she needs a barrier between what she's done and where she stands.
The water is heavy and cold and unfamiliar, and it slides past her skin like it's kin to her own blood. She stays down until her lungs are burning and then she slips to the top, lifting her head above the water. It's grey out now, the sun all but gone. A wind whips across the shallow waves, pulls her hair around her neck.
Behind her, what's left of Sylar smolders on the beach, sending up a lone smoke signal against a slate gray sky.