A/N: Sorry this took so long. Life got chaotic for a while.

reneemm: Thanks! Glad you like it.

DarkWill0w: He definitely could. What a team they'd make!

.0o: They've definitely got some issues to deal with yet. Right now it's just in that beginning stage… I think Claire is just drunk on the idea of giving in and breaking free of that "normal" life she's been trying to live… and Sylar's been craving this for quite a while, so they're still in the intoxicating physical stage. As they grow, we'll see the complexities of their relationship. I am also way more in love with evil Sylar, though nerdy Gabriel is just absolutely adorable. And I'm with you on Hiro/Charlie, I ship them like FedEx. They are just too cute. And Hiro deserves happiness. :D

Mark: Don't you think those are the type of books he'd read? and thanks. Because even if Claire does hook up with Gretchen at one point, it's not meant to last. Because she MUST end up with Sylar. :D

alias093001: You make a very good point there about Noah creating Sylar. If it didn't cross his mind that, by creating Sylar, he put his daughter in danger, I hate him even more than I did before. And don't worry—they'll hatch one hell of a plan for revenge. Claire's about to turn into Future!Claire, a.k.a. Bad-Ass Claire.

melissa007: Thanks!

angry penguin: Yes, you definitely do.

Only October Girl: I can't wait to write the reactions, actually. :D

twinkledee: Thanks!

the s33r: And that's where we're headed. The virus may not have gotten out, but Claire's about to turn the corner. :D Thanks for all the great comments… and I'm not going to say anything about Peter. I still haven't decided yet. :)

xx

Volume Two: Vengeance

xx

Chapter One: Spiral

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

--Oscar Wilde

xx

Noah Bennet rolled over to check the clock.

Thick red numbers burned into the night. 4:12.

The sickle moon hung in the sky outside his window, pale and cold, and it crossed his mind that there really was no better symbol for his life. All he had left—all he could hang onto—was a sliver.

As he padded into the kitchen for a glass of milk, he thought about the people that used to comprise the Bennet family. Sandra, his beloved Sandra, had changed her name to Sandra LeBlanc after marrying some obscure French artist. He'd heard all about him from Lyle—how they'd met on her trip to Paris, how he waited just seven months before proposing, how he'd painted a huge portrait of Mr. Muggles as her wedding gift. Of course she loved him. Frédéric LeBlanc gave her poetry, passion, and romance. All she got in her first marriage was lies, deceit, and a badly damaged brain.

Which is exactly what Lyle said to him in the last conversation they'd had. Noah hadn't seen his son since he showed up on his eighteenth birthday to inform his father that he was legally disowning him and taking his stepfather's last name. At least, he'd thought, as Lyle slammed the door behind him on his way out, I still have Claire.

And then, inexplicably, she'd vanished too. After spending so much time trying to help him find a job and patch up his tattered life, she suddenly stopped coming over. Quit calling. Noah had tried in vain to contact her; when he finally got desperate and showed up at Arlington, Claire told him that she couldn't take the pain anymore, and told him not to speak to her again. Maybe I shouldn't have followed her roommate so closely, Noah thought, recalling how frightened Gretchen was to learn that she was being followed by a private investigator. I guess I never really learned how to give people space.

Resigning himself to the inescapable fact that he wouldn't get to sleep, he went to put on a clean shirt and tie. Nothing to do now but go to work early, he thought, staring into the mirror at the dark circles under his eyes. I've always been a company man.

xx

Abby Collins greeted Noah at the door. "We have to talk," she said immediately, and led him into her office.

Noah, nonplussed, eased into a chair and took a sip of his coffee. "What's going on?"

"Hiro Nakamura is back on the radar."

He leaned forward. "Where?"

"A bit of everywhere," she replied, and pushed a file toward him. "Three months ago, he was visiting your ex-wife in Costa Verde."

Noah stared at the pictures, ignoring Frédéric's face in the doorway. "Nakamura… Masahashi… who's the redhead? She looks familiar."

"Her name's Charlie Andrews," reported Abby. "Used to be a waitress at the Burnt Toast Diner in Midland, Texas."

"She has a power?"

"Eidetic memory," Abby explained. "She can remember everything she reads, hears, you name it."

"Give them a green. All three."

Abby raised an eyebrow. "Green? They're high-priority."

"Look. I know Nakamura and Masahashi. They're harmless. And the waitress' power is pretty tame—"

"Tame? You call that tame? Bennet, she can store millions of credit card numbers, social security numbers… she could steal identities—"

"She could," Noah said firmly. "But she hasn't. Look. I told you when I got back into this that I wasn't going to lock people up for things they haven't done yet."

This earned a cold glare. "Fine. Then I'll send Oliver to bag them."

Noah sighed. Oliver Packard was a cold-blooded ex-Navy SEAL with no restraint and no conscience. He made Emile Danko look like a puppy dog. "Fine," he relented. "I'll do it."

"Good." Abby smiled as Noah collected the file.

As he left the room, he considered what might have happened had Angela been there. Initially, she was supposed to be involved; once Peter died, however, she renounced anything even remotely close to another Company. Would Angela have been in charge? Probably not, he thought, reflecting on how frightened Abby was of these people. He'd practically had to beg her to allow René as his partner. I've known him for years, Noah had said.

Abby had simply stared at him. And I knew Tracy Strauss for years.

It was only after Noah argued his usefulness—the ability to wipe someone's memories—that Abby gave in. The ubiquitous government cover-up, thought Noah, smiling. Of course he's an asset.

Noah entered his own office. The Haitian was seated, waiting.

"We've got three targets," said Noah, grabbing a tranquilizer gun from his desk drawer. "Let's get going."

"Who are they?"

He tossed the folder to him.

René flipped through the photos. "Hiro."

"I tried to tell her that he's harmless," Noah sighed. "She wouldn't have it."

"I could wipe her memory. Shred the file. She wouldn't remember."

"No." Noah threw his coat on. "The last thing we need is an excuse for her to become even more paranoid. Look—we'll bring them in, and you and I will make sure they don't turn into a torture case or a lab experiment. Alright?"

René rose, a disapproving look on his face. "I thought we'd agreed to be different."

Noah paused. "Sometimes sacrifices have to be made."

xx

"I have something for you."

Claire glanced up from her book. "Oh? Is it an announcement that you're finally going to take the plastic off of this couch?"

Sylar smiled. "No. I'm saving that for a special occasion."

"Ooh." A grin appeared on Claire's face. "You know, I almost sliced it off myself today." Playfully, she raised a finger and directed it at the couch.

"You're going to have to be more precise before I let you go after my furniture," laughed Sylar. "Here. Open it." He pressed the small, rectangular box into her palm.

Claire carefully opened the top. "Oh," she breathed, "it's beautiful!" She lifted a delicately-wrought gold watch from the box. "Sylar," she whispered, gazing at the face.

"It's where I took my name from." He showed her the shattered watch around his wrist; she could just barely make out the letters beneath the splintered glass. "Yours," he continued, "is an antique. One of the first ones ever made. Handcrafted in 1907."

She smiled. "I love it. Help me put it on?"

Sylar clasped the watch around her wrist. "I also have good news."

"What's that?" She curled up as he sat down beside her.

"I'm on your father's target list for next week."

"How did you find out? And why is that good news?"

"Shapeshifting is a useful ability," Sylar told her. "And it's good because, when he comes, we'll be ready." Gently, he stroked her hair, his eyes darkening. "And I'll kill him."

A dark smile crossed Claire's face. "Sylar. I'm not going to let you have all the fun."