Claire – 3

Claire fumed silently in her window seat as the third hour of her cross-country flight crawled by. It really couldn't be him. There was just no conceivable way. How did she always get so wrapped up in what was going on in her own tiny sphere that she always missed the hugely obvious?

In the airport, she'd seen a familiar blur as she hugged her mother and Lyle good-bye, but it hadn't really registered. And why should it? For the first time in months, she was focusing on something besides being miserable, so why should anything interrupt that? She'd chalked it up to paranoia or déjà vu; something glitching in the Matrix, right?

Later, as she stashed her carryon in the overhead bin, she saw him, actually saw him. When she shook her head and did a double-take, he was gone, so she figured she was just going crazier than she already was.

About two hours into the flight, Claire decided to stretch her legs and check out the bathrooms. And there he was. He didn't even try to hide this time, although that might have been due to his being crammed awkwardly between two other passengers.

At least he had the decency to look embarrassed.

Claire stopped dead in her tracks, her jaw dropping, ignoring all the people around them. "What are you doing here?" she hissed, already afraid of the answer. He gazed silently at her, flicked his gaze to the people on either side of him, then glanced back at her with eyebrows raised, as if to say, Really? You want to do this in front of everyone?

She ignored the stares and glared at him, hands on her hips, every inch the pissed-off teenager cliché until she realized what she was doing. She dropped her hands back to her sides, took a deep breath, and squared her shoulders. Then she flashed a dazzling smile.

"Renee! I had no idea you were on this flight! There are two empty seats next to me on row 15. Why don't you come sit with me?" She phrased it as a question, but they both knew she wouldn't hesitate to make the rest of the flight very uncomfortable (well, more uncomfortable) for him if he didn't join her, and soon. If he was startled by her sudden change in demeanor, though, the Haitian covered it well. In fact, he even looked a little relieved to give up his seat between the snoring, heavyset woman next to the window and the child on his other side that didn't seem to belong to anyone and was busy smearing some sort of pudding-like substance over nearly everything he could reach.

Abandoning the bathroom idea, Claire led the way back to her seat, graciously allowing the Haitian to have the aisle since he was far taller than she was. She fumed silently next to him for a few minutes collecting her thoughts, then turned to the man who had more than once saved her life.

"Why are you here, Renee?"

He gazed at her silently, which was really par for the course, and she felt her temper rising again. She knew this was the last place she needed to cause a scene, but how could her father send his freaking (super-powered) watch dog after her?

She shook her head, closed her eyes, held up a hand in a weary "hang on a minute" gesture, and pinched the bridge of her nose between two fingers. How the hell could someone who couldn't get sick and could heal from almost any conceivable injury still get headaches? Oh, that's right. Noah Bennett was involved.

She took another deep, steadying breath (she was going to hyperventilate at this rate), and opened her eyes, staring at the seat in front of her before she spoke quietly, leaning closer so they would hopefully not be overheard.

"Why don't you let me ask questions or narrate what I think is going on, and you let me know if I've missed something or gotten something wrong…how does that sound." She phrased it as a statement, not a question, but the Haitian once more gave her a relieved look and nodded for her to go ahead.

"Okay, so…first, the obvious question. Did my dad put you up to this, and if yes, which one?"

After nearly three hours of guessing and questioning, Claire had the situation pretty much worked out and herself pretty badly worked up. She was mostly angry, to be honest, that her father had tried to save her at the expense of his wife and son…They couldn't have gone on a whole family vacation or something?

"Did Dad even mention that he considered Mom and Lyle's safety before he did this?"

Before the Haitian could answer, Claire fumed, "Let me guess. Mom was in on the whole thing, too, and Lyle just didn't care." A nod. Well, that pretty much covered everything.

Just as she was about the lean back and finally let the whole thing rest, Renee pulled a small folded piece of paper from his shirt pocket and handed it to her. She stared at the paper for a moment before taking it, but instead of opening it, she turned a rather sardonic face on the man next to her.

"Really? Two and a half hours, and now you give me a note?"

"You seem to like playing detective. Who am I to suppress someone's personality?"

She snorted at the irony of that statement as she unfolded the paper. As she'd suspected, it was from her father:

"Claire-bear, I know you're angry with me. If you're reading this, you spotted Renee, and you've honestly probably figured everything out at this point anyway. We heard rumors of Sylar's "resurrection" and his intentions to head in this direction. We haven't heard anything on his intentions, but you and I can both probably guess. Don't worry about us, though, honey, I'll keep the rest of the family safe. I wanted you as far away from this monster as I could and with people I thought could protect you. I love you. If you believe anything I tell you for the rest of your life, believe me when I say that I love you.

- Dad"

An announcement came over the intercom informing everyone that the flight would be landing shortly, to please place trays and seats in the upright position, etc, etc. Claire refolded the note, tucked it deep into her pocket, and turned to look out the window. The take-offs and landings were always her favorite part. Well, more the landings. The take-offs always made her a little nervous: to have the world you're familiar with suddenly rushed away into something tiny, unrecognizable, and unreachable. There was something innately wrong about that.

Forty-five minutes later, she and Renee were retrieving their things from baggage claim, all pretenses of his silently trailing her gone. If the cat was already out of the bag, he might as well keep her company at this point. As soon as they walked through to the next room, she heard a familiar shout and looked up to see Peter, Angela, and Nathan all standing together.

It never amazed her how comfortable Nathan Petrelli could look in his suit. Stiff, formal, and stuffy, sure, but how the hell did the man manage to look stuffy and comfortable at the same time? It's like he was born to be that way. Angela, wearing her eternally-attached triple rope of pearls, managed to make her smile seem forced and natural at the same time. Apparently this family had a talent for harboring multiple sets of emotions at the same time…And not one of them was as good an actor as they seemed to think they were.

Claire snorted. She fit in perfectly with them, after all.

She'd always considered herself to be the black sheep of the Petrelli family, but as Peter swooped down on her and scooped her up in a bear hug, she realized that it was Peter himself who didn't truly fit in the family. Every single one of us is manipulative and two-faced, she realized even as her face split in the biggest grin she'd worn in months. But with Peter, you always know exactly where he stands and exactly what he thinks of you.

She glanced over at Angela and Nathan and saw them exchanging quick patronizing smiles as they maintained their composed, pleasant attitude. Oh, there goes Pete and his enthusiasm all over the place again, they conveyed with their smiles. At least we are keeping up the pretense of dignity…for the family's sake, of course.

Peter finally placed Claire back on the floor, giving her a tight, extra little squeeze she wasn't expecting. She glanced up at him, but he was already facing away from her, gathering the luggage they'd dropped during their greeting. She flicked her eyes to Renee, who of course hadn't missed anything, but he could only shrug, as clueless as she.

She exchanged brief, but dutifully warm hugs and greetings with her father and grandmother before the party began to move towards the exit. As they walked and exchanged small talk (where would she like to go for sight-seeing, what kind of tutors would she have, did she need to go shopping for anything, etc.) Claire couldn't shake the cloud of anxiety that had settled over her just after Peter's unexpected squeeze. It was possible she was being paranoid, but…

She glanced over at the Haitian, and he gave her the briefest of nods. Yes, he felt it, too. Something was off, even for the Petrellis. Which meant…

She stopped abruptly and grabbed Peter's arm, forcing him to halt in mid-stride and nearly drop her bags. He glanced at her, confusion and concern written on his face, along with maybe a trace of apprehension. Angela and Nathan were much quicker to hide their emotions, though Angela opened her mouth to say something to Claire. She cut her grandmother off before the first words could leave her mouth.

"What's going on, and don't bullshit me. I'm tired, I've been told too many lies today already, and I'm done with this. I already know why my dad sent me up here, and I don't see the point to all these pretenses. You're all acting weirder than normal, I know it has to do with Sylar, and I'd appreciate some honesty at this point. Is that too much to ask?"

Because she was watching for it specifically this time, Claire just caught a glimpse of some strange emotion flash through her grandmother's eyes. Weariness? Wariness? Fear? What the hell? Angela's face immediately switched back to its patient, caring, grandmotherly expression (which never quite managed to warm her eyes), and she stepped forward to link her arm through Claire's. "Let's at least get to the limo before we talk, dear, there's so many things to discuss that no one in the airport needs to hear." Her tones were warm, conciliatory, a spider who'd been caught leading a fly to its lair but thought it could still pull off dinner tonight.

Claire brushed Angela's arm off like so many spider webs and shot her a withering look. She then turned her glare to Peter, who was already looking away again, as if he knew she'd be able to read everything off his face. Surprisingly, it was the politician who gave her the first family-delivered honest answer of the day.

Trying to give her one more chance to not do this in public, Nathan took a deep breath and said, "You're sure you want to do this right here, Claire? I don't honestly advise it." She nodded anyway, far past the point in her life of caring for this man's advice. "All right, but we did warn you."

He pulled her slightly to side, speaking quietly and hugging her so as to speak directly into her ear without drawing too much attention.

"It's your dad, Claire. He… I can't put this nicely in any way. Sylar found him right after you left, and no one could get to him in time. Noah's dead."

Blackness.

I have nothing for you but a song tonight. I've listened to this song for a long time, and I never really understood it. I still don't get it, but it makes me feel a little better tonight. I'm waiting, Mr. Gray.

Johnny, Angry Johnny, this is…

Jezebel in Hell.

I wanna kill you. I wanna blow you...

Away.

I wanna kill you. I wanna blow you...

Away.

I can do it to you gently, I can do it with an animal's grace.

I can do it with precision, I can do it with gourmet taste.

But either way…Either…Either way,

I wanna kill you. I wanna blow you…

Away.

I can do it to your mind, I can do it to your face.

I can do it with integrity, I can do it with disgrace.

But either way…Either way,

I wanna kill you. I wanna blow you…

Away.

Johnny, Johnny, Angry Johnny, this is, this is…

Jezebel in Hell.

Johnny…Johnny, Angry Johnny, this is, this is…

Jezebel in Hell.

I can do it in a church, I can do it any time or place.

I can do it like an angel, To quiet down your rage.

But either way…Either…Oh, either way,

I wanna kill you. I wanna blow you…

Away.

I can do it in the water, I can do it on dry land.

I can do it with instruments, I can do it with my own bare hands.

But either way, Either way, you know where it stands.

I wanna kill you. I wanna blow you…

Away.

Johnny, Johnny, Angry Johnny, this is, this is…

Jezebel in Hell.

Johnny…Oh, my Johnny…

Where'd your pleasure go

When the pain came through you?

Where'd your happiness go?

This force is running you around now.

Getting you down now…

Where is your pleasure now Johnny?

Where has your pleasure gone…now?

Author's Note: Countless apologies for taking so long on this update. Don't ask, I really have no excuses. Let's just say I've been recently re-inspired, and while updates still won't be regular, they will hopefully be more often than every two or three years. I will say for the next month I will be somewhere that, while I can check email, I will not be able to update, though I will hopefully be able to formulate a plan for the rest of the story at least. I've also revamped all the other chapters AGAIN. Not much new, I'm simply never satisfied with a finished product and if I can attack it and feel I can do better, I will. So I fiddle, added, and fixed mistakes that I'm still finding, even at this late point in the story.

The song "Angry Johnny" was performed by Poe and belongs to the copyright holder.