Disclaimer: Still not mine.

Author's Note: So I've been agonizing over this chapter for days, and I just know the next few chapters are going to include even more agonizing and second guessing myself. So feedback and letting me know I'm doing well would be just AWESOME. Also, the more I write this story, the angrier I get at Noah and Angela....luckily, reflecting that in here isn't necessarily a bad thing, given the givens.

Buried

Chapter Eight

Claire paced back and forth in Peter's apartment. It had become very close to home for her, though most of her things remained at her parents' house. She had gone without her favorite top for months now, simply because she didn't want to see Noah. She felt like she was sacrificing her relationship with her mother and brother, but she couldn't be around that man. She still talked to her mom often, so she knew that, even though Noah had moved out, he dropped by frequently. She couldn't risk running into him. So she made due with the clothes she had, and did laundry often.

Peter wasn't home yet. He was probably still out to dinner with Angela. And her dinner with Sylar had been going so well.

She needed to talk to him. She didn't know what she would say yet, but she was toying with the idea of telling him the truth. If she could just make sure he wouldn't go after Sylar, at least she could get him started on forgiving her, so maybe he could finish before he died.

But she knew how much he loved Nathan, how much he'd looked up to him, before all the betrayal and manipulation started. Maybe all of the shit that had passed between them would lessen Peter's pain, but even if that were the case, it wouldn't be nearly enough to prevent retaliation.

She also thought about telling Sylar that she needed more time. That whatever they had started could wait the sixty or seventy years until Peter died. That might have worked, if she hadn't already set things in motion. She had a feeling that Sylar would have been happy to wait. They were eternal, after all, so what was one lifetime in comparison to that? But she'd been so scared of being alone. And now, if she put off their progress to avoid Peter's judgment, Sylar would never forget it.

She realized then that she couldn't really think in the here and now anymore. Most of her thoughts lately had been of the metaphoric big picture. She couldn't make Peter happy now, not when she knew it would taint the rest of her eternal life. In all of her eighteen years, she'd never felt so self-serving, but she couldn't let that stop her.

Claire heard Peter's key turn in the lock. She was out of time to make up her mind.

When Peter walked in, he took one look at Claire's face and knew something was horribly wrong. "Claire?" He rushed to her and put his hands on her shoulders, forcing her to look at him. "What is it? What happened?"

She couldn't tell him the truth. That wouldn't end well for anyone, not yet. But she couldn't lie to him either. "I'm so sorry, Peter."

Worry flashed across his face. He led her to the couch and they sat down. "Tell me, Claire. I'm sure whatever it is, we can work it out."

That nearly made her cry. He would die hating her, and nothing could ever make that okay. "I can't tell you everything yet, but I can say a few things." She took a deep breath. "I don't know when, but probably sooner than I'd like, it's going to seem like I betrayed you. I don't think you'll ever forgive me, but I just wanted to tell you that the future you saw, the one where I killed you? That will never happen. No matter what happens, I will never get to the point where I would take your life away. I love you, Peter. You're my best friend, but...I can't sacrifice my well-being for eternity to keep you from hating me."

Peter stared at her, his eyes wide. She brushed his hair out of his face. "You'll think I've gone evil or crazy. It'll seem like a betrayal, to you, to myself, and to everything we've fought for. But even if you hate me for it, I'll love you forever." Before he could ask her any questions, she threw her arms around him and buried her face in his neck.

"I understand that you need to make your own decisions, even if they go against what I would choose for you. But the way you're acting...is the world at stake here, Claire? Because if what you're talking about puts the world in danger, then you know I'll have to stop you. Even though I love you too, and I want you to be happy, I can't just let you do something that will endanger us all."

"No, it's nothing like that." She pulled away from him and wiped at her eyes. "Actually, it might save a lot of lives. But that's not why I'm doing it," she told him honestly. "I wish I could say that was my intention, but...it's really just me being selfish."

"How could I hate you for something that will save lives?" Peter asked.

Claire shook her head. "I can't tell you that yet. It's all too new. But you can and you will."

Sylar was unsure what to do. In all the movies he'd seen, when the heroine storms out in a rage and tells the hero to stay away from her, she really wanted him to follow her, and would inevitably fly into more of a tantrum if he didn't. But Claire hadn't been angry anymore, and Sylar definitely wasn't the hero of this piece. So did he follow her or let her cool off?

He decided on the latter. Chasing after her would set a bad precedent, and one of the last things he needed was to get started on a habit that might stick around for a couple hundred years.

He tried to settle his mind on the Angela issue. He was sure that she didn't have any definitive information yet. If she already knew that he wasn't her son anymore, she would have made some sort of move against him. Though she had to know that incapacitating him again wouldn't be nearly as easy as the first time, she would have done something. Matt Parkman would be beating down the door and trying to mindfuck him. Again.

The idea nearly made him ill. He hated all of them, Angela, Noah, and Parkman, for what they did to him. They showed him that there really was something worse than death. To lose his identity completely, forced to live out the life of a man he killed. If they tried to force his mind back into that, he would take them down in the quickest way possible. Torturing them sounded fun, but they were a slippery bunch. If he kept them alive to torture them, they'd probably escape somehow, and then he'd have more revenge schemes to deal with. No...if they came for him, they would have to be killed, regardless of his promise to Claire. He wanted so much to keep his word, but he couldn't be responsible for what might happen if he had to act in self-defense.

On the plus side, Sylar was almost sure that, if they miraculously succeeded again, and were stupid enough to try the same trick twice, Claire wouldn't let him be Nathan for too long. She hated the lie almost as much as he did. It was one of the multitude of reasons he was so fascinated with her.

He shook his head and refocused on the matriarch of the Petrelli clan. The problem with Angela's visions of the future was that he wasn't sure what to do to throw her off. Being the perfect son might help, might even make her doubt her prophetic dreams, but he was still far too angry. He couldn't be the perfect son when all he wanted to do was rip off the top of her head, figure out how her ability worked, and then burn the body.

The ringing of his cell phone brought him out of his thoughts. He could tell by the ringtone that it wasn't Claire. Hers was the only one he knew because, in an act she'd throttle him for if she knew about it, he'd switched her ringtone to Aqua's "Barbie Girl." Sure, the song was an assault to his ears and his brain, but just imagining the look on her face if she knew was enough to put him in a good mood. Besides, all of Nathan's pre-set ringtones had been boring, including the one that was sounding off now.

He looked at the caller ID. It was Peter. With a sigh, Sylar shifted back into the body and therefore voice of Nathan Petrelli, then flipped open his phone and put it to his ear. "Hey Pete, what's up?"

"Hi Nathan...hey, have you talked to Claire lately?"

Peter's voice was worried, and that sparked Sylar's worry. Had Claire not made it home? Where could she be? Even though she couldn't die, there were a million other things that could be done to a pretty girl in this city. "Yeah, a couple hours ago. Why? Is she okay?"

Silence stretched over the line as Peter hesitated. "Well, yeah, I guess. She was just saying some stuff that worried me, that's all. I was wondering if she'd talked to you about it too, or if you knew anything about it. I know you two have been getting pretty close lately."

Thoughts of betrayal flashed through Sylar's head, but he quickly brushed them aside. If she was going to trust that he wouldn't go on a killing spree with several key members of her family on the very top of his list, then he would have to trust that she wouldn't tell Peter every last detail of the past few days at her first opportunity. "What kind of stuff?"

"She was talking about her future...saying that she had to make a choice soon to ensure her future happiness."

"Well, she's going to live forever, Pete, and that's a long time to be miserable. It's good that she's thinking ahead," Sylar replied, trying to keep his voice light and unconcerned.

Peter searched for the right words to make his brother understand his concern. He paused often, but forged ahead until he was sure he'd gotten his point across. "It's just that...she was saying that I would hate her for whatever she's going to do. Nathan...I can't think of a single thing that would make me hate Claire. In that horrible future, she killed future me, and I didn't hate her...and neither did the future version of me; I'm almost sure of it. What could Claire possibly do that would be so horrible that I'd never forgive her for it? She even said it would save lives, so that's a good thing, right? I don't understand, and she won't tell me."

Sylar was startled by the realization that he didn't want Claire to lose Peter. Compared to their lives, Peter's would be horribly short, so she only had a very limited amount of time with him. But it was not in his nature to be self-sacrificing. He had no intention of letting her go until Peter died.

So the only solution was to come to a truce with him. He knew that would be the best gift he could ever give to Claire: Peter's continuing friendship for the remaining years of his life. It seemed that she had already written such a thing off as impossible, but a few months ago, she'd thought being on friendly terms with him would be impossible too. Even though she'd gotten to the point where too much betrayal had forced her perspective to change, she didn't imagine such a thing could happen to Peter too. Sylar knew better. Everyone had their limits, and he thought Peter might be reaching his. There was a time...it seemed like several lifetimes ago, but was, in reality, less than a year, when there was a dim glimmer of hope that he and Peter could have been friends. That was gone now, probably forever, buried with the body of Nathan Petrelli.

But maybe Peter could learn to tolerate him. He didn't even need that. He just needed Peter to not try to kill him, and to accept Claire's decision. And there was always the extremely slim possibility that, like Claire, he would be more angered at the actions of Angela and Noah than he was at Sylar for setting things in motion by killing Nathan. He wasn't counting on the likelihood of that one. But, he thought, by all accounts, hope springs eternal.

"Nathan!" Peter was yelling into the phone. He'd apparently been trying to get his attention for some time. Sylar had drifted into his own thoughts and had left his side of the conversation hanging. He'd have to be careful about that, or Peter would sense something was wrong.

"Sorry. I was just thinking about what Claire might be up to. Tell you what, I'll talk to her in a couple of days and try to see where her head is at. Maybe we can all do lunch next week?"

"Yeah, sure. Keep me updated, okay? I'm really worried about her."

"Of course. Talk to you soon, Peter." He hung up.

Sylar's mind raced over the possibilities. So many conditions had to be met for such a plan to even have a chance of working. Peter would have to know he was Sylar, and he would have to accept that Claire was with him, in whatever capacity they managed in his lifetime.

He was rather glad that Peter was no longer able to turn into a nuclear bomb. Because if anything would have made him explode, it would be this.