Note: Due to FF net's mix-up concerning the use of * symbols as dividers, I have been forced to re-upload every single chapter of this fic (26 to date). In place of asterisks, I have used  symbols. I don't much like the look of them, but it's better than nothing. Unfortunately, I also inadvertently deleted nearly all my Author's Notes, so let me take this opportunity to say . . .
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Heroes. Believe me. If I owned Heroes, Lyle would only ever have been relegated to the background so that viewers would be blown away by his emergence as Super Villain Supreme. (Larry Bennet, SVS.)
To any new readers, let me say that this fic was begun several episodes prior to the end of Season 3 and therefore carries on with a disregard for much of Season 4. Thanks. :)
Sylar sits before his desk, focused on the dismantled watch. Completely intent, he prods at the marvelously tiny gears. It's all very Gabriel Gray, but he doesn't feel the need to be ashamed of it anymore. It's just a hobby now, like working a crossword puzzle. He hopes this is a tricky one.
His cell phone startles him, and for a moment he doesn't even recognize the ringtone. He hasn't used it in so long, he'd forgotten it was still active. Nobody calls him.
He flips it open.
"Hello," he says cautiously.
"Sylar," the voice on the other end speaks, and he detects a hint of a Southern accent. He almost smiles, but then he remembers—
"Claire, how did you get this number?"
"It doesn't matter," she responds. There's a slight waver to her voice, but Sylar disregards it for the moment, he's so wrapped up in a disconcerting mix of curiosity and paranoia.
"It matters to me," he insists.
"Someone gave it to me," she sighs, then adds pleadingly, "Sylar, just please leave it alone, okay?"
Sylar stands abruptly, shoving his chair behind him.
"It's that—that—the one with the phones and the computers, and . . ." His mouth has gone a little dry, and his heart-rate had quickened. "Good god, is he still alive? What was his name?"
"As if I'm going to remind you."
"Micah!" Sylar snaps his fingers on his free hand. "Micah something . . ." In an absurdly premature vision, he can already imagine carving the boy's head open.
"Son of a bitch," says Claire, an edge of sadness to her biting tone. "I should've known. The first time we speak in years, and all you can think about is killing some old man whose name you don't even remember. Not so much as a how-do-you-do."
That's right. Micah would be old now. Sylar sometimes forgets that other people age and change over the course of time. In his mind's eye, Micah is frozen in childhood, Peter Pan style. Now he wonders if Micah might even be in some rest home for the elderly, and he files the possibility away for future consideration. Sylar's come a long way from his frenetic past. He's settled down somewhat. But he still allows himself the occasional indulgence when it surfaces.
"How do you do?" he asks ironically. Then his brow creases. Come to think of it, how does she do? And why the hell is she calling him, of all people?
"Not so great," she admits, and he notices how close to tears she sounds.
"No." There's a pause. A long pause. He might think she'd hung up if he couldn't hear her breathing.
"What is it, Claire Bear?" he snaps impatiently. "Got a body out back and can't quite lift it?"
"He left," she says bluntly. "Seems like . . . you were right."
A grim smirk creeps over his face. Shaking his head, he reseats himself.
"So Prince Charming finally made tracks," he says. "Well, I wish I could say I—"
"Please don't say I told you so," she begs.
"Fine," he says. Leaning back in his chair, he takes the watch from his desk and fiddles aimlessly with it. He sits in silence, waiting for Claire to break it, and when she doesn't he gives in and mutters petulantly, "I did, though."
"Oh, my god!" Claire blurts angrily. "Is that all you can think of to say to me? Really, Sylar?"
"I might think you'd be apologizing for not listening to me!" he fires back, his fingers tightening convulsively around the watch. "I didn't need intuitive aptitude to tell you that wasn't going to work! I mean, sure, men love a younger woman—it's so stereotypical it just has to be true, that's what you thought, wasn't it? And I bet it was cute for a while . . . until people started assuming you were his daughter. Or maybe even his granddaughter, for God's sake?"
"Calling you was a silly thing to do."
"Yet another fact I could have told you," he says, and he places the watch back on the table, slamming it down with a harder clack than he intended. "Did you think I'd make you feel better? What was the point in calling me, anyway? You go to the trouble of tracking down Micah and getting him to pull my number out of his feeble old ass, and for what?"
"You know why," she answers bitterly. "You always did."
"Meaning?" he asks with a roll of his eyes.
"Meaning there is no one else to call. Who else could possibly comprehend what it's like to go through life like this, day after day, standing still while the world spins around us? While everyone and everything we care about just spins away?" Claire's voice strangles on the last word.
"Caring was your mistake," he says callously, but his eyes narrow. There's something about this conversation that's sending a chill creeping up his spine.
"You know, I guess that's one of the few things I can honestly say I don't regret about my life," she continues as if she hadn't heard him. He knows she's crying now. "If I could've wished this hell on anybody, it would've been you."
"Claire . . ." He ignores her animosity. "Why did you call, again?"
She laughs through her tears, a laugh full of grief and hopelessness.
"'So long, sucker' is what it comes down to, I guess," she tells him. "I called to say goodbye."
No, he doesn't like this at all, not one bit.
"You can't possibly—I—I mean-" He stammers, torn between incredulity and an irrational sense of fear he can't shake. "Claire, you can't die."
"Now, we both know that isn't true," she says. "One shot to the sweet spot, and it's all over. You going to tell me goodbye?"
He laughs, but it's more anxious than humorous.
"Last chance," she prompts ominously.
"Goodbye, my ass," he says with insincere sarcasm. "More like goodnight." The feigned sarcasm drops out of his voice as if grabbed by gravity. Leaning forward, he growls into the phone, "If you even try it, I swear to god I'll be there so fast you'll—"
Click. She hangs up. It has to be a challenge, he thinks. At least, he meets it that way, darting up from his chair so fast this time that it overturns and nearly trips him up as he starts for the door.
Her legal name has been Claire Rutherford for decades, but Sylar has refused to recognize it for as long. He has always considered her marriage no more than a phase, possibly something she couldn't help, stuck as she was in the body of an impulsive teenager. Now he feels entirely justified. He'd be smug if he wasn't for the task at hand. Robert Rutherford could go to hell and take his name with him. She would always be Claire Bennet to Sylar.
So, snagging his coat and keys from a rack across the room with a gesture of his arm, he leaves to stop Claire Bennet from pulling whatever idiotic move she's planning.
Or to pry the goddamn bullet out of her head myself, he amends, returning to pocket a miniature pair of pliers from the mess on his desk before he locks up. Either way.
Thankfully, it doesn't make much of a difference.