Okay. I am NOT the biggest HRG fan. He toes the line between "anti-hero" and "villain" a bit too closely for my taste. But I know that everything scummy he does, he does for Claire, so...

...and this episode was just a punch in the gut for everybody's favorite Company Man. I felt...really sorry for him. If he was giving this whole "be a better person" speech to anybody but Claire, I wouldn't have believed him. But it WAS Claire, so I do.

And then Matt and Mohinder and Peter have to swoop in for some payback.

I've never disliked them as much as I did in that moment when they dragged him out of there.

So, in honor of the fact that he's just been royally abused, I have put a bit of HRG's angst to words. I...like to think it came out okay. But, as usual, you all must judge.

Maybe this was better.

When they saw that he was no longer a part of the Bennet household…and Danko probably did know by now…maybe they would stop thinking of Claire as leverage. Maybe they would think that they wouldn't be able to persuade him to do their bidding, now that he'd been thrown out. Maybe they'd think he was the one who walked out. Claire might still be okay. She still had Nathan's protection, just as long ass he didn't do anything too foolish. Too reckless. And no one would bother with Sandra. Lyle was a smart kid; he'd know to keep his head down. His family would probably be all right without him. Would probably be even better off without him.

And in the meantime, he could…figure things out. Stop telling lies. Stop keeping secrets. If he didn't have anyone to lie to, anyone to keep secrets from, that might be a good start. He could…be a better person. A better husband. A better father.

It would probably be easier to do all of that if he didn't have his family around him. Without the urge to protect them, protect them from the dark, secretive world he'd been a part of for so long…maybe he wouldn't feel the need to lie. To keep secrets. The only person he could lie to now was himself, and he'd been doing that for so long that it would probably be a waste of his time to try to break that habit.

The man with the horned-rimmed glasses fiddled absently with his wedding ring. Hearing Sandra actually tell him to pack his bags had…hurt. Hurt him on a level he hadn't felt for years. And seeing the hurt on Claire's face when he'd told her he was leaving had hurt even worse. Because she'd known…and he'd known, by that point…that it was the best option left to them. The poison between them wouldn't have time to heal if they were always around one another to make it even worse. And he'd…be around. But not as an agent. Not again. Just…as her father. A better one.

It would be okay. Such a childish reassurance, the sort he'd offered to Claire or to Lyle when they'd been small and their problems had been so, so simple. But he found himself repeating the words to himself every so often. It would be okay. He'd be better. He'd make things right. It would be okay.

Telling himself that made him feel a little better. Maybe it was the alcohol, but he could almost believe it, if he repeated it enough. It would be okay. He would be okay. Claire would be okay.

"Staying here at the hotel?"

Noah looked up, to see the bartender watching him as she placed a refill in front of him. He drained half the glass before he answered her. It really was helping him feel better.

"Just for a little while," he said, as he pulled out his wallet to tip her. "I'm actually looking for an apartment. Do you know anywhere that might be open?"

She took the tip with an appreciate smile, but shook her head. "I'm afraid not. Welcome to Costa Verde."

He smiled at her as she moved off to attend to her other duties, then stared down at his two empty glasses and made to stand up. Places to go. Things to do. Apartments to find.

A sharp, aching pain shot through him as he moved. Noah clutched his head as his vision began to blur. He tried to squint through the haze, but it did no good. Trying to get up was painful. He pulled off his glasses and tried to focus…

The bartender turned around just in time to see Noah fall off his stool and collapse in a heap, completely senseless. Two people got up from their tables as he hit the floor, and out of the corner of her eye she saw movement from the other room.

The two men…one thin, the other heavyset, both with dark hair…picked Noah up off the floor, one under each arm. Another man, darker skinned, joined them.

The largest of the three looked back at the bartender and smiled reassuringly. "Looks like our friend had about three too many."

"Don't worry," the second man hastened to add, as, together with the dark-skinned one, they began to half-carry and half-drag Noah from the room. "We'll get him home safe."