Thanks so much for the reviews you've already given, hope oyu enjoy this chapter as well! It's not as Sylarry, but don't worry, he will be back =)
This is a bit floofy, showing more details of the Original Incident and HRG's suspicions and responses. I'm going to have a lot of fun with him in this fic, I think. Now, on with it!
Oh, wait: I don't own these characters, only some of the delicious situations in which I put them.
Also, mature content to a lesser degree ahead. Much lesser degree, I have to say.
Claire slept in much later than usual, the next morning. Usually, after several restless hours trying to sleep, she'd get up at five or six and mindlessly watch TV or do homework or something. Her parents were almost worried when ten o'clock rolled around, but they dared not wake her. She needed all the sleep she could get if she was ever going to get over her trauma.
Claire rolled over, stretching lavishly, until she felt the cool wetness all over her bed. Ew. She'd had vague plans, before dozing off, of getting up early to wash her bedding before anyone else was up. But, judging from the sunlight boring into her face, it was too late for that. She got out of bed slowly, rubbing gunk out of her eyes, and noticed that she'd actually drooled on her pillow. Surely a sign of a good sleep. Heading to her dresser to get clean panties, she stubbed her toe on her bed frame, hard.
"Ow!" She yelled, falling backwards.
Footsteps pounded on the stairs, then, "Claire? You okay?" Her mom's voice, followed by her dad's.
"I'm fine, I just . . ." She yanked on her clothes and checked to make sure she was fairly presentable looking, and that her bed was strategically covered by dirty laundry, then opened the door. "Stubbed my toe."
Her mother looked from Claire's smiling face down to her foot, then back, incredulously. "But it didn't hurt."
"Oh, it did. It really hurt. It's fine now, of course."
"I thought you weren't feeling pain since . . ." Her dad asked, looking suspicious. As though he expected her to lie or something.
"I dunno why, but I think I'm back to normal. Well," she added with a smirk. "As normal as I was before Sylar cut my head open."
Her parents both looked taken aback at their daughter's casual mention of the attack, when they'd all been tiptoeing around the subject for weeks. She took that opportunity to step out of her room and close the door behind her.
"Well, I think that's wonderful." Her dad said, finally.
"What? Noah, that's not good." Her mom reproached.
"No, Mom, he's right. It's good. You can't go through life not feeling things, it's unhealthy. I, for one, am glad."
"You do seem very . . . chipper. You're positively glowing."
"I slept well. I don't know why, exactly, but I feel a lot better today. No more . . . worrying about Sylar. I have a feeling things are out of my hands and there's no point stressing, you know?"
"Er, actually, we don't know. What are you saying, honey?" Her dad asked, eyes narrowed.
"Just that, what's done is done and what will come will come." She shrugged, laughing. For the rest of the morning, she sang Que Sera Sera. As she cheerfully ate waffles, walked Mr. Muggles, and Lyle looked at her like she was more of a total freak than usual.
"I love Sundays. Don't you love Sundays, Mr. Muggles? Especially when I already have all my homework done. Oh yes I do!" She said, in that idiotic way people only speak to pets and babies.
"In that case, why don't we hit that little diner by the Wal-Mart, the one with the really good sweet potato fries? Just the two of us, what do you say, Claire?" Her dad asked, entering the room.
"Uh, that sounds great, Dad. I am hungry, and I don't think Mom was planning on feeding us after that huge breakfast she made."
"Great. It'll give us a chance to catch up."
Claire knew her dad was acting a bit odd, but she didn't mind. He'd been spending lots of time with her lately, but she'd been too preoccupied to appreciate it. He'd always been so busy with work, throughout her life, she should be thrilled. And now she would be. She was going to take Sylar's advice, and instead of pining and angsting and worrying about their inevitable deaths, she was going to enjoy her family and friends more. Starting now.
He didn't start the interrogation in the car, he waited 'till they got to the restaurant. "So, are you sure nothing happened that might've precipitated your . . . suddenly being fixed?"
"Hmm." She pretended to think. "I switched to a different conditioner last week. I was getting tired of the nectarine scent."
"This isn't a joke, Claire."
"Of course it's not. I just don't know why you can't be happy for me."
"I am. But I've lived in this world long enough to know that this kind of thing doesn't just happen. Switches in the brain don't just randomly flip themselves on and off."
"Hmm. Tell me something, Dad."
"Out of all the people with powers you've worked with over the years, were they all like me? Did their powers all develop when they were about sixteen, and gradually?"
"No, it's different for everyone. Most often it's with the onset of puberty, but I've met people who went most of their adult lives without the manifestation taking place."
"So it stands to reason that it could be anything setting them off. Some sort of trigger. Something tiny, something traumatic, or maybe just a little switch in the brain that decides to flip itself on."
"That's a bit of a stretch, but . . . I guess so, yes."
"Alright then. That must've been what happened to me last night. Or maybe my brain just healed. I'm good at that, you know. Sylar broke something or misplaced something in my brain, and it took a while but maybe my brain finally realized what was wrong and fixed itself."
"Claire, you're a terrible liar."
She shook her head innocently, clear of any expression. "What?"
"He came to our house again last night, didn't he?"
"Claire, drop the act. Tell me what happened and why you're lying to me."
She sighed, resigned to tell him part of the truth. "I couldn't wake you up, he might've killed you."
"What'd he do to you?" Noah's eyes were wide, his hands gripping the edge of the table hard.
"He just . . . he said he hadn't meant to mess my brain up. He cut my head open again and put things right. I asked him why, but he just left."
She turned on the tears of frustration and confusion, just a bit, for effect. He still didn't totally buy it.
"Honey, how can I protect you if you won't let me?"
"There was nothing to protect me from. I hate him for what he did, but I'm glad he came back. I'm glad I can feel again. I wasn't sure I was still human; I wasn't sure if I was alive or not. Now I know. So, you know what I said to him before he left?"
Her dad was silent.
"I told him thank you. Now I can truly put it all behind me, don't you see, Dad?"
"No, I don't. It doesn't add up. After the first time, you were traumatized. Your mom came home to you covered in blood, you were a mess. You've been a mess for weeks! And now, after he visits again, you're suddenly all better and happy and carefree? That doesn't make sense, Claire. You were terrified!"
"Yes, Dad, I remember! I remember what it was like!"
"Do you? Do you really?"
Flashback; three weeks
Lyle sat across the room, staring at her. It didn't help. Mr. Muggles seemed to be taking his lead, when he wasn't disgustingly licking at the dried blood on the floor. They were all staring at her. Abruptly, her mom turned to Lyle. "Lyle, honey, take the dog for a walk. Go on, bring a baggie along." Lyle was too shocked to argue. When the door closed behind them, Sandra moved to sit on the couch beside her freshly showered daughter.
"Honey, I know you said . . . you said he didn't,"
"He didn't, mom. I thought he might. I was so . . . scared. But he didn't do anything but cut my head open."
"Oh, that's all." Her mom said, rolling her eyes.
"The thing is," Claire said, staring straight ahead and not looking at her mother. "He . . . it could've been worse."
"How on Earth could it have, Claire?"
"It wasn't so bad. I knew, on some level, that I wasn't going to die. And it only hurt for a minute. When he touched my brain, God that was weird, but it didn't hurt. It just sort of tickled."
"Oh, honey." She pulled Claire into a sideways hug.
"And he talked to me. The whole time. Mostly it was just monologuing, you know, serial killer stuff. Nothing scary, just some big metaphilosophical –is that a word?- questions that I guess were on his mind today. But he also told me what was happening. Like, 'no, it's not in the frontal lobe at all, that's odd.' And 'there's your muscle control.' And sort of made my finger twitch to show me."
When she looked at her mother's face, it was aghast. "No, mom, I know it sounds bad. But it was like . . . you know when you're at the Doctor's office, or even the Dentist's, and they're poking and prodding at you and it's so much more reassuring when they tell you exactly what they're doing instead of making you guess?"
"I guess so." Sandra said uncertainly.
"Like that. I know he's this super evil killer, but like I said, it could've been worse. He even put the top of my head back on for me."
"Well, when he cut it off, it fell on the floor. Just a big disk of skull and hair. Pretty gross looking, not that I got a look at it, being pinned to this coffee table and all. Anyway, he was about to leave when he turned back and put my scalp back on, and of course it healed up perfectly. Again, I know he's a monster and I do hate him, but in some twisted way he can be really thoughtful."
She looked at her mother's face again to gauge her reaction, and Sandra was crying silently, a look of horror on her face.
"Mom, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, you didn't need to hear all that, or any of it, and you said before that you didn't need details, so I shouldn't have told you."
"If you needed to let it out . . . "
"I think I did. But my whole point was that you shouldn't be so upset. I'm going to be okay. It was horrible, but I'm looking on the bright side. The only thing bothering me now is that he's out there with my power, which means he's more of a danger to everyone out there, now. But there's nothing I can do, nothing I could've done."
"No, there wasn't. Your dad should have been here to protect you."
"Crap! Dad! Have you talked to him?"
"Did he freak out?"
"No. I think he's coming home, soon."
"Oh, that's good."
"He'll want to talk to you, I'm sure."
Flash forward; present
"Of course I remember, Dad. Why are you asking me this?"
"Do you remember what you told me?"
Flashback again, three weeks
When she heard movement downstairs later that night, she tensed. But it didn't sound quite like Sylar, who wouldn't be sneaking around anyway. Sylar would have made his presence known by now. So it had to be-
"Claire. Oh my God, Claire."
"Dad." She let him wrap his arms around her, kiss her head, murmur frantically about how sorry he was, how worried, how glad she was okay. When he was done with that, he pulled away, frowning. "Now, I'm so sorry, Claire-Bear, but I'm going to need you to tell me every single detail of what happened today. It's important that you leave nothing out. Even things you might have wanted to protect your mother from . . . I need to know it all."
He got mad when he heard she was planning on going to see Nathan, but it only showed in his expression, he didn't interrupt. He didn't even interrupt her when she got to the parts that made him especially sick, the parts that made his blood boil.
"So I was in the pantry." Pause, swallow, deep breath. "And he was talking about the files. Oh, Dad, the files. On escaped Primatech prisoners. He took them, he's going to go after them."
"Honey, I know that, it's okay. I need to hear about you, I'm not worrying about company stuff right now."
She nodded. "So I came out of the pantry. I think I thought he was gone, but I grabbed a knife from the counter . . . and then he was right in front of me and I stabbed him."
"What? Your mother never said-"
"I forgot to mention it. Anyway, I stabbed him in the chest. Then he pinned me against the wall, right over there-" she pointed. "And started cutting my head."
"Did it hurt?"
"Yes. That was the last thing I really felt. I remember thinking I felt like a pumpkin; a jack-o-lantern." She laughed hollowly. "When the top of my head was off, he used his telekinesis and put me on the coffee table. Carefully, y'know, so my brains wouldn't spill out or anything. Put a pillow under my head, that's why that one's all bloody. And then he started."
"Did that part hurt?"
"No. Just tickled, and it felt really weird. I mean, he had his fingers right in my brain tissue, it was pretty invasive." She blushed as she realized the sexual parallels one could make. "I honestly thought he was going to eat my brain." She laughed at her stupidity.
"He didn't?" Noah asked, letting out a relieved breath.
"No, don't you think I'd've mentioned that? I thought you knew."
"We'd always wondered. So he just . . . did what, exactly?"
"He looked for my ability. It was so weird when he . . . he'd stroke one spot and say 'Here's your occipital cortex,' and make colours and blackness flash before my eyes. Things like that, but mainly he was just digging around in one little area. He had an idea where it should be. He said it wasn't grouped with the other . . . involuntary brain functions. Reflexes and heartbeat and all that. Which means, he said, that some day maybe I can learn to control my power, turn it on and off. It's only automatic now because I was so unaware of it, he said."
Claire didn't feel the need to tell her dad about another example of her brain being played with. There she'd been, laid out on that table, when Sylar's fingers brushed against . . . something. A receptor, she guessed. Causing, quite simply, an orgasm. It was sudden, with no buildup, and not really pleasant, just jarring. She gasped. When she looked up at Sylar, looming over her, he was trying not to laugh.
"Sorry." He said, not sounding serious. She wondered whether it'd really been an accident.
She did tell her dad about some of the other things, though, because he'd asked her to relay absolutely everything, and there wasn't much to this story. She told him about how Sylar had pointed out different parts of the hindbrain, specifically a spot that, when touched, activated a strong survival instinct. The sudden surge of adrenaline was enough to let Claire move, just a bit, stronger than Sylar's relaxed holds on her, until he noticed and put them back on, doublefold, and told her he'd underestimated her a bit.
"He sure did a lot of talking." Noah commented, at this point in the story.
"Well, he's chatty. And I don't think he has many friends, exactly." She snorted. "His victims are probably the only company he has." She made a point of keeping her sympathy from her tone. "Anyway, he found it. And I could feel it, when he took my power. All he did was feel my brain until he understood how it worked, and then it felt like . . . like my brain was leaking, sort of. Really weird.
"And then he yanked the knife out of his chest, and healed. Then he wiped his hands, put the top of my head back on, and left."
"Just like that?"
"Well, first he told me I was special. More than I thought. Whatever that means. And that he couldn't kill me even if he wanted to. He said," She felt her eyes watering for the first time in this retelling, and her throat closed up painfully. "He said I could never die. And that now, neither could he." By the end of the sentence, she was full-on bawling.
"Claire, honey, it's okay. I won't let him hurt you ever again." An empty promise.
"He won't want to. I'm sure I'll never even see him again, now he's got what he wants." Claire said, tears dropping from her chin.
"And that's good. You're going to be okay, sweetie." Her dad said as he held her tightly.
She nodded against his chest.
"You're sure you've told me everything?"
"Everything I can remember."
"Claire, if he touched you, did more than you've said, you'd tell me, right?"
"Of course I would, Daddy."
"You know you can tell me anything."
"I do. And I'll always tell you things. I'm not keeping anything from you."
"Alright, Claire. As long as I know you'll do that, I feel a lot better. And I trust you."
Flash forward again; present
"You said you'd tell me anything."
"Does that still stand?"
Claire drew herself into that place she went when she lied, not that she knew it. Hopefully it didn't show in her face, closed off and cold. "Of course it does, Dad. Why would I lie to you?"
"I just want to reiterate to you, Claire honey, that Sylar is not someone to screw with. You can't trust him for a second. You can't listen to anything he might say. You can't let him convince you-"
"Dad, Dad, wait a minute. Why are you saying all this now? It's not as though he'll be back. He was just fixing what he did to me, out of some twisted sense of . . . something. Whatever it is that goes on in his head."
"Don't bullshit me, Claire."
"I'm not." She said, more forcefully, angrily. There was no way he was getting the real truth.
He leaned back, nodding once. "Alright then. I'm sorry for doubting you. If you say that's all that happened, that's good enough for me."
"Thank you." Claire said, as though he was being unreasonable until now.
"So, are you excited for next week's game? It's a pretty big deal, and they'll be counting on you to cheer."
"Yeah. Sure. I'm really looking forward to it." She smiled, realizing that she really was. Amazing, that cheerleading still held her interest so fully.