AN: Written for the "High" theme at pairechallenge.
On Claire's 21st birthday, Peter realizes that she has developed a strange thrill of killing herself. Of course, there is one sure-fire way for Claire to die, but she doesn't take the easy way out. It's no fun that way, and she tries to do the messiest things possible. Peter has given up chiding her for it. She laughs it off, pouts at him, and then tells him she's not really serious.
Claire does it in a way to feel pain. She's lived with that fear before. Someday she's going to live a long time, beyond her friends and family, and she's not going to feel the pain anymore. She's scared that she might not even cry at the memories.
But she's not afraid of death. Claire searches for it, in every dire way possible. Odder yet, the feeling of dying, jumping off buildings and standing in front of speeding trains gives her a type of high that concerns Peter. He hopes it's just a phase. His niece is going to live long enough, so maybe she'll get bored with such a dangerous addiction.
At her birthday party planned by his mother, Peter steps back as a flower on the wall, and he watches the people buzz around Claire with intensity. He tries not to focus on Claire directly. What more can he really observe of her? He knows his cheerleader inside and out. He is curious, however, on how other people circle around her. Claire is likeable and charming, kind of like Nathan, but she's also easily annoyed by lots of attention and with too many people crowding her.
She's like him in that way. He smiles. Peter loses track of time and when the last socialite leaves, Claire comes over to him as he begins to nod off in a wicker chair.
"It's over; they're finally all gone," she says with relief. He looks up and sees her enormous grin. Peter cocks an eyebrow.
"You made out like a bandit, didn't you?" he asks, and she smiles even wider, which isn't like her. Claire isn't usually this happy.
"I have enough birthday money to get my Master's from people I've never even met before!" she exclaims.
Peter slaps his knee and grins with her. "Welcome to the Petrelli family." He makes an 'oof' noise as she sits down on his lap. He rolls his eyes as she meets his gaze, challenging him to push her off. He doesn't. Claire barely weighs a thing anyway, and within some sick shadow in his head, he's always enjoyed when she's done this.
"I'll tell you a secret," she says. He's even more interested, especially when her voice lowers. "I'm not going to college. I'm thinking about buying my own jet." She's almost giddy, but Peter is cautious.
"What do you possibly need with a jet?" he asks worriedly.
With a wave of her hand, she says, "I'm going to fly it into a mountain and see if I can rise from the ashes." She shows her perfect white teeth and cocks her head. "Like a phoenix."
Peter furrows his brow and when he's about to say something very uncle-like and contradictory, she sighs. "I'm not serious, Peter." She stands up and he instantly misses the warmth from her thighs. "You're no fun anymore." (Not that he ever was before; she knows him.)
Claire stalks off, and Peter stays in the chair until well past midnight. When the cold air starts to bother him, he goes inside, but not before looking up at the light on in Claire's room. He sighs.
He sees it as her usual invitation, but tonight he's going to ignore her. He can't get the thoughts of her addictions out of his head. He really is worried for her. Who knows how far her powers can go? She pushes and drives herself so far, breaking limits and testing the natural universe. One of these days, Peter knows the universe is going to stab back.
Then he'll lose her. He frowns at the fear he has for her. This continuing desire to evolve beyond her powers is unacceptable, and Peter feels weary knowing he's going to have to do something about it.
One night after dinner, Peter settles in the couch next to Claire as she watches a show called, "Nitro Circus". While he's cringing to the stunts, Claire is whooping with laughter. "Pussies," she says. "I've totally done that before. No big deal."
Peter snorts. "Unlike you, they can't walk away from an injury and instantly fix themselves." Claire nods.
"I know, but it's thrilling to see other people do this crazy stuff." She leans her head against him. "Any stunt goes awry, and they could die." She sighs wistfully. "They don't know how lucky they are."
Peter momentarily gives her a solemn look, and when she didn't meet his eyes, he slings an arm around her and draws her close as she snuggles into his arms.
He wakes up around four and literally jumps out of Claire's bed. He almost forgets where he is. He looks down at her sleeping figure next to him, and she moans and rolls closer to him, nuzzling her face against his hip.
Last night was too close - dangerously close, Peter thinks, remembering as he almost put his hands inside her shirt as he held her. She's invited him in her bed before, and they've never done anything - just held each other and then he steals away into the night before anyone else in the house catches them. Sometimes he kisses her head, and sometimes her hands linger to the dip in his back as she holds him. It's not acceptable, but Peter doesn't think it's crossing any serious lines either.
Some people might not approve of it or understand it. But it's just them - it's how they are. They've grown to become like this, and though they've talked several times, they agree that they cannot take it any farther. Sometimes she wants more; sometimes he does, but they've settled this by mutual understanding. The way they love and understand each other doesn't fit into the cookie-cutter normalcy of the rest of the world.
One thing is for certain; Peter cannot live without Claire, and Claire cannot go on without Peter. They share in their fears of the future. Peter will die someday, and Claire will live beyond him. Maybe that's why she does the things she does, that she could die before him so she doesn't have to live with the pain later on.
"What's wrong?" she whispers sleepily. She arches up on her elbows and looks at him worriedly.
"Nothing. I couldn't sleep," he says.
"Come here then," she says, opening her arms.
"I should go," he says, and he leans down and kisses the corner of her mouth. He means to kiss her cheek, but it's dark and his vision is still hazy after waking up. Claire freezes under his kiss and before he can move away, he feels her soft hand on the back of his neck. She leans forward slightly and kisses him back and puts her mouth over his. Her lips are soft and dry. A hot feeling surges through his body, and he has to still himself to want any more.
"Good night," she says, pulling away reluctantly. Peter purses his lips and moves from the bed swiftly. He whispers 'good morning' and slinks back to his own room. He almost regrets the kiss, but he's been so worried about her that he excuses himself for the quick burst of emotion.
He just won't let it happen again.
Peter disappears for awhile. He tells his mother and Claire that he's going to help the Red Cross with the wreckage of a tornado in Oklahoma. His mother understands, but Claire isn't happy and stares at him placidly as he leaves.
He just needs to do this for awhile. He doesn't want to leave Claire, especially not if her death seeking could get worse. But after the night a few days ago in her bed, he has to put some distance between them in case he goes over the edge.
Claire already knows this is the real reason he's leaving.
With his eyes, he hopes she can see he's not happy about this decision too. He's going to miss her.
A frantic call from his mother stops his volunteer work in Oklahoma, and he has to go on small mission to retrieve his runaway niece. Angela says she's dropped out of school, dumped her then-boyfriend, and packed up all the stuff from her bedroom that meant anything to her - her pictures of the Bennets and anything Peter's ever given her.
"Do you have any idea where she went?" He hopes his mother has had a dream, something to give him a clue.
In her controlled voice she answers, "Coyote Sands. You're closer to her than I am."
Peter relaxes, hoping this is just another phase like the death 'thing'. Of course, according to text messages from Claire, the death thing hasn't ended.
"I'll get her," he says, and there's a telling pause on the other end before his mother sends her love and bids him farewell.
Peter hovers over the sands and lands in the deserted wasteland full of graves and terrible secrets. This place permanently holds foreboding spirits and shadows, and Peter shudders lightly as the eerie atmosphere pushes at his senses. He doesn't see Claire right away, so he treks over the mass graves and heads to the abandoned dorm rooms once containing children.
"Claire!" he yells, tired of looking in this dreadful place. He just wants to find her, shake some sense into her, and get out.
"Over here!" she answers, poking her head out of one of the larger houses. He follows her there, and she steps outside.
"What are you doing here?" he asks bitingly. He hasn't planned on seeing her again for awhile, so he blames her for deliberately taking him out off his hiatus.
"Looking for answers," she says, ducking back inside and leafing through the leftover files.
Peter says nothing, but then he starts to understand. "I don't know if there's anything here for you."
Claire lets out a heavy breath, and her bangs blow out of her eyes. "There has to be someone like me out there. Someone..." Her eyes look away. "Someone other than a psycho," she added with a snort, meaning Sylar.
"There was another like you. His name was Adam, and he was kind of psychotic too," Peter says. "I've told you this already."
Claire spins around and glowers at him. "Peter, there has to be another person with regenerative abilities. I'm not going to be alone in this world! And contrary to what Sylar thinks, I will kill him before he thinks he can get his hands on me."
Peter walks to her and grips her shoulders. In a soothing voice, he says, "Claire you're not alone. I'm here."
"But for how long? Huh? You'll die just like everyone else that's important to me," she says, and Peter can hear the sobs rising in her voice.
"Claire, I will be here for you as long as I can," he says, hugging her tighter. Suddenly, she pulls away, angry.
"Stop it," she says. "I hate it when you lie."
"I'm not lying!" he retorts with offense.
Claire turns away from him as she senses his aggravation. In a heavy minute, she finally sighs and says, "Peter, do you know why I try to hurt myself?"
Peter frowns. "I have an idea."
Claire watches him desperately. "Ask me. Ask me to tell you the real reason." He opens his mouth to speak, but she stops him. "You may not like the answer." Peter hesitates.
"Tell me then. We shouldn't have this between us," he says logically, and Claire's eyes only become angrier. She breaks her gaze from his again, and she paces to the edge of the dusty room, looking out the window.
"I can't have death, not in the normal way like other people do. I've resolved to live with that fact. I'll die unnaturally, if I ever do. I want to die fighting at least, die protecting someone or making some big sacrifice. Yet, the end is more than not going to be the same. I will rise from the dead, every time," she says with a bitter smile. "I can be useful that way. My dad wants me to be a part of Homeland Security after college, and I'll probably take the offer.
"But it's all a lame joke, Peter. I can't die," she says with a pause and her voice drops to a whisper. Tears ebb in the corners of her eyes, but her expression is tight. It's obvious she tries desperately to stay strong. "I can't be with the person I love."
"Claire..." he says immediately, but truthfully, he has nothing to offer her that can satiate the need. He's known about her feelings before; his are the same. But she's right. They can't be together.
"At least, not normally," she says, her green eyes shining with premature tears. Despite this, she smiles at him sadly. He goes to her, drawing her into his arms as she settles into him. Idly, his fingers run through her hair. "When you do this, it's both great and terrible."
He tries to slowly pull away, but she holds onto him. "Don't."
"Claire, I'm sorry, I didn't make the rules," Peter says finally.
"Screw the rules," she mutters. "I'll find some other way to die. I'll always try."
Peter harrumphs unhappily. "I wish you'd stop that. I'm worried about you." He places a kiss to the top of her head, and she disengages. She looks at him sternly.
"I'll keep dying as long as we can't be together," she says defiantly. "This is how it is, Peter. Just accept it."
He wrinkles his brow in frustration. "I can't promise anything," he says reluctantly. "We both know it's wrong, but..." Peter closes his eyes and sighs. "I'll always be honest with you. Always."
"Okay, then. Do you love me as much as I love you? More than we both should?" Claire asks. Peter freezes, looking down at her but no longer seeing the scared young girl he comforted in Kirby Plaza.
"You know I do," he answers in a strained breath.
Claire nods, and she offers her hand, indicating that she's ready to leave. He takes it and she smiles. "Well, then, at least that's something worth dying for."