So, I know my latest chapter for The Company We Keep is long overdue. I promise I haven't abandoned it. And while I should be working on that instead, I very much enjoyed the Sylar segment of tonight's episode, and it led me to wonder how he weathered those three years of isolation. I remembered his paranoia about Peter-"This is just my mind playing tricks on me"-and wondered how many other hallucinations he'd suffered. At which point this fic happened. :)

The world is dead. He has a nagging, guilty idea that he must have killed it somehow, accidentally. Sort of like when he forgot to feed his goldfish that one week during high school finals—he didn't mean for it to happen, but tell it to the goddamn fish, Gabriel. Oh, you know why it can't hear you?

'Cause it's fucking dead.

This is worse than the fish, of course. You can flush a goldfish out of sight, but the world lingers on, a monument to everything he wanted and now will never have.

The first few days, he wonders the city, searching, shouting. Begging. After a while, his voice is ragged, and he's not sure if that taste on his tongue is blood or salt. He wipes his face with his wrist and comes away with a transparent streak of tears. Then his diaphragm heaves, and he sniffs hard, realizes his nose is running, too. Feeling more pathetic than disgusted, he scrubs his wrist roughly against his coat.

She would be disgusted. She would curl her lip at him, tell him that for such a psychopathic monster, he sure did turn crybaby awful easy. She would kick him while he's down on his knees in the empty street, weeping. She likes kicking him when he's down—verbally, at least. Literally, too, most likely. She just never got the chance before.

He'd give anything for a kick right now. And as he gasps, hyperventilating or sobbing—or maybe both—into his fist, he latches onto the only desperate, infuriating hope that has not yet fled him.

Claire Bennet does not die. He knows this like he knows the cadence of a grandfather clock.

She should be here.

[] [] []

She's hiding.

He is sure of this, because he can feel her like a unnaturally warm breeze in winter. Eyes on his back, drilling into his spine, gone when he whirls around. Footsteps so subdued as to be entirely muted, yet he senses their vibrations in his tensed shoulders. Scornful, feminine laughter on the wind.

And occasionally at first, more and more frequently as time elapses, he awakens from a dream to find the hot clutch of her body lost to him but her scent evident in his nostrils for far too long. Once when this happens, he looks up to find his door ajar, and he is positive he closed it. He wants to chase after her, but he's weary and aroused and utterly miserable.

She is punishing him. In a merciful mind, the cessation of the human race would mean a clean slate for survivors, but Claire is a wrathful goddess. He can't really say he blames her—except he does, and often. Running hot and cold, he seeks her with a different purpose from day to day.

Explain himself, beg for forgiveness on Monday.

Wrap his fingers around her throat and squeeze and watch the blood vessels burst in her eyes on Tuesday.

Drop to his knees and hug her legs so she can't run away on Saturday. Say I miss you and I need you, the sentiments muffled against her hip bone.

Drag her inside by her hair, heels kicking vainly against the asphalt, and lock her in a closet on Sunday. Feed her through the slats out of sheer chivalry and refuse to let her out until she breaks and begins making promises that don't sound like lies.

Kiss her on Wednesday.

Kill her five times before kissing her on Thursday.

Kiss her. Just a kiss. Nothing violent or invasive. Innocent. Just to kiss and be kissed. That's Friday.

He thinks it's Friday. Anyway, it might as well be. Who gives a fuck anymore?

[] [] []

He's a year and a half into the all-encompassing seclusion when the voice remarks, "Watches."

He freezes. Even his lungs freeze.

Be cool. Just be cool. Now is not the time for desperation, and now is not the time for rage. Make believe she's a skittish animal, and coax her in with your calm. Be cool and be harmless. You have all the time in the world, and all of it comes later.

He sucks in a trembling breath and, showing a commendable wealth of control, does not even turn to face her.

"Timepieces," he corrects as casually as he is able, as if the two of them hold discourse every day and his heart is not very nearly in his mouth. He swallows.

It's a long moment before she speaks again, long enough to drive a molten-metal stake of panic between his ribs. He's on the verge of whirling around and darting after her when she begins:

"It's funny—"

"It's not," he disagrees, the shake entering his voice now as he pretends he still knows what his fingers are doing to the antique pocket watch on the table. "It's really, really not."

"You . . . didn't let me finish." She sounds like maybe she's smiling.

"So finish. Don't mind me." He hates her for smiling. In his mind's eye, her smile is beautiful and brilliant, and he could stare at it until it blinds him.

"Well, all these watches—"

"Timepieces." Time. Fucking. Pieces.

"Is time really that important anymore?"

"It's a hobby," he replies. "Keeps me sane." His voice hitches.

"God, you're not gonna cry, are you?"

"Fuck you, Bennet."

And his fingers clench on the table, and his face screws up, as he silently curses himself even harder for the slip. He hopes it came out friendly. A friendly, ribbing sort of Fuck you.

Claire chuckles, and while the sound is somewhat contemptuous, it sends a wave of relief through him. She's still here.

"Right back atcha, Sylar," she says, and then considers, "Or is it Gabriel now?"

He presses his lips together and shakes his head.

"Whatever you want," he professes with a lift of his eyebrows, unable to hold it back any longer. "I mean, it doesn't matter anymore, does it, my name, I mean it's been a long time since I even thought about it. Thought I wouldn't hear it again, you know, ever. So you can call me anything you want, and I mean anything you like, it doesn't even have to be one of those two. If you want to pretend I'm someone else, that's fine, I don't really care."

He finally pushes his chair back from the table and turns.

"Just don't—"



And god damn it straight to hell, too. She's gone, she's gone, she's gone.

He runs out of the room, out of the apartment, into the hallway. She can't be that fast, not on her legs. She's five foot two, for god's sake! He should be able to mow her down like the roadrunner in those old cartoons. Losing sight of her is ridiculous.

He's lost sight of her.

Well, not that he had sight of her. In fact, he can visualize her leaning in the doorway, ankles crossed, one finger working a curl in her blond tresses, as if he were watching her the entire time. But in his care to be cool, he never saw her.

Biting his lip against a rueful smile, he stops outside the building, holding up his arms.

"What?" he shouts. "What'd I say?"

He laughs.

"Was that not the answer you wanted? I mean, god forbid if Claire Bennet doesn't get exactly what she wants! God, I am so sick of you FUCKING WITH ME!"

He doubles over and rests his palms on his knees, breathing hard, listening to the echo of his anger as he lets the heat die down in his face. When he comes back up, he's all contriteness, his eyes puppy-dogged beneath his heavy brow.

"I'm sorry," he proclaims loudly. "Okay? Look, I don't want to hurt you or anything . . ."

Shades of Jack Nicholson in The Shining there: I'm not gonna hurtcha. I'm just gonna bash your brains in!

But she'll live. It's what she does.

"If I could just see you-! That's all! You don't even have to come near me!"

If she steps out into the open, she's not getting away. He prays she's that foolish. And he's not even sure what day it is, really: Monday or Tuesday, kiss her or kill her. Both.

"I need to see you," he tries, one last time. "Claire!"

The goddess remains unmoved.

[] [] []

He nearly laughs at his own stupidity. Distance. Distance is the key. What, did he think she was commuting to haunt him like this? Taking the subway, for god's sake?

She has to be living somewhere nearby. He searches all the buildings within reasonable distance from his home. Every single room, he turns them over and out, searching for signs of current life. Coffee on a desk, maybe something left half-eaten on a table. A wet toothbrush, or some lingering perfume on the air, something from a shampoo or an aromatic candle.

He can't find anything. And yet she must be here.

So he tries trapping her, tricking her. He laces entrances with bells and tin cans, noisy things to clatter to the pavement when she wants to go inside. Afterward, he spends night after night outside on the sidewalk, back against one building or another, ears tuned to capture the slightest upset.

No go.

So he focuses on his apartment. After all, she's visited before. He crunches glass into crumbs and sprinkles it all over the floor. Remembers to hop-scotch his way through the apartment so as to preserve the freshness of this improvised alarm system. Skews the hinges on a couple of doors so they'll creak upon opening. He'll hear her going if he doesn't hear her coming. He will.

Weeks and weeks and months.

[] [] []

Another night, another muddled, unfulfilling sex dream. Only this time when he awakens, he's certain a noise brought him around. And her scent is there again, but it's heavier, almost oppressive.

A form at his bedside as his eyelids drift apart. Hazy. Shadowy. Petite and female.


His jaw clenches, the only warning sign before he bolts upright and snatches her from the darkness.

There's a bit of a tussle as they clash on the mattress. Her legs are open, knees resting on either side of his, and he's got her craned back at far too awkward an angle to make use of them.

Got you. His mind pulses with light, and he shakes her hard enough to rattle her teeth. Fucking got you.

"Oh, god, the things I'm gonna do to you," he threatens, voice thick with interrupted sleep and an excitement bordering on euphoria. "You have no idea."

"Yeah, yeah, listen to the big scary man," she replies with a definite eyeroll in her words, though her tone is soft, cajoling. "What's he gonna do to poor li'l ol' immortal me?"

"For starters . . . I'm gonna suffocate you once for every time I even think you ignored me. And then I—I . . . Mm."

Her hand is on the move. It slides down, down over the front of his boxers and between his thighs. Cups his testicles and applies a faint squeeze. He practically whines into her hair.

"Not so tough now, are you?" she teases dryly.

"Uhhh," he breathes, reaching up to turn her face up to his. "Kiss."

He sounds like an idiot. It doesn't matter. She's seen him at every worst he's ever had, and he's had plenty. His sudden inability to articulate is merely a trifle.

She crushes her lips to his, and her tongue is in his mouth, and things are happening. He wraps his arms around her, tight so he can feel her all along his torso. There is nothing in this entire, empty world like her naked skin.

When did she take her clothes off? He can't recall.

At this point, he thinks maybe he's still dreaming, but he doesn't want to know. And then she envelops him, like hot, wet silk, and his fingertips are digging into her hips as they pant in unison, and he really doesn't want to know. Reality or dream or madness—it doesn't matter anymore.

He'll take whichever one has Claire in it.