Chapter Eight:

Peter turned off the TV and laid back on the uncomfortable motel bed. Did he just make a huge mistake letting Sylar go after Claire? Should he go look for her too?

No, Claire said she needed time to think. She'd be pissed if he ran after her like a crazed lunatic. Let Sylar be the one to make that mistake. Claire was probably yelling at him right now. Or kissing him again. Damn it.

What if they came back to the room holding hands and smiling – all lovey-dovey? Or they could come in separately, but casting secretive longing glances at each other, filling the room with sexual tension thick enough for Peter to choke in.

The best case scenario would be Sylar walking in first, sullen and heartbroken, followed by a smiling Claire, who immediately launches herself into Peter's waiting arms, kissing him passionately. Peter chuckled at that thought.

But seriously, how was this going to work? Would Claire stand awkwardly in front of them, delivering the news to them both? Or would she ask to talk to Peter separately? Had she already given Sylar her answer? Did she even have an answer yet?

No matter what, the next few minutes would alter Peter's life forever. As long as Sylar doesn't walk in with a gloating smirk on his face, Peter would have hope.

Of all the things Peter imagined might happen when they returned, Peter never expected Sylar to burst through the door, out of breath, crazed panic in his eyes.

Sylar threw up his right hand toward Peter, using his telekinesis to pull him from the bed to his feet. Once Peter was standing in front of Sylar, he released Peter from his invisible hold.

Too shocked to react, Peter stood there trying to grasp what had gotten into Sylar. A punch in the face broke Peter out of it. Clenching his jaw, Peter punched him right back, but Sylar was unfazed.

"This is your fault!"

"What?"

"You upset her. She would have been here and safe if you'd just backed off."

"What are you talking about?"

"Claire! She's gone. She was attacked on the road. He fucking took her and it's all your fucking fault!"

No, no that didn't happen. Claire was fine. Sylar was lying, he had to be. Or this was some sick joke Sylar was trying to play on him.

Sylar thrust Claire's jean jacket at Peter. It was covered in dirt. She was wearing this . . . "Use my clairescience ability Peter. The jacket will show you what happened."

Though Sylar had powers that Peter wouldn't mind using himself, Peter hated the thought of how he got those powers. So he didn't absorb them from Sylar if he could help it. He didn't even like to use the telekinesis he got from Sylar when they'd fought in Mohinder's apartment.

Telekinises was obviously Sylar's favorite power, which made Peter want nothing to do with it. It didn't help that Sylar was better at using it, stronger with it. At least Sylar didn't get Elle's electricity power. Peter enjoyed throwing painful volts at the fucker.

When did Sylar get, what did he call it, clairescience? And from who? Peter tightened his fists; it didn't matter who Sylar had to kill for it; Claire could be in danger. Peter closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on the jacket he clutched in his hand. Nothing happened at first, then it came, playing like a movie in his head.

Claire running down the dark road, crying into the quiet night. Her footsteps slowing to a halt. A man's arms grabbing her from behind. Claire's scream. The man's grunt of pain from her kick to his knee. Claire desperately trying to free herself.

A few steps of freedom before the man catches hold of her wrist. Claire struggling out of the jacket he still held tight in his fist. The man running after her, tackling her from behind.

Dust kicked up by the struggle blocked Peter's view of them, but he could hear the sound of duct tape ripped from a roll and the muffled protests Claire made after the tape was over her mouth. A glimpse of Claire tossed over the shoulder of the man as he carried her to the back of his vehicle.

More sounds of tape ripping, Claire stuggling, something slamming shut, locks clicking into place. The dust cleared enough for Peter to make out the man shutting the back door of his van and walking quickly towards the driver side door. Seconds later the van was speeding off into the night, leaving nothing but Claire's jacket behind.

When the images stopped coming, Peter's eyes blinked open, but remained unfocused. His mind couldn't break through the shifting haze of horror, rage and denial consuming him. Claire was . . . she was . . No! She can't be gone. This can't be happening.

It was Sylar pulling the car keys through the air off the nightstand into his waiting hand that finally pulled Peter back to the moment.

"Come on, we need to hurry," Sylar said over his shoulder as he ran out the door.

Peter heard the engine roar to life. He looked down at himself, wearing only his t-shirt and flannel pajama pants. Should he bring his jacket? Where were his shoes?

"Peter! Get your head out of your ass and get in the fucking car NOW!"

Sylar's shout pierced through the disturbing haze in Peter's head. This was really happening. Claire was attacked. We need to find her. Save her! Peter ran out the door barefoot. The passenger door was open wide for Peter to just barely make a running leap into the car as it peeled out of the lot. He pulled the door shut and roughly settled into his seat.

The tires squealed against the pavement as Sylar took a hard right onto the highway. Sylar's eyes stayed focused on the road ahead while he asked in a tone that seemed strangely calm, "You can still fly, right?"

"Oh, um, yeah, I can."

"Then do it."

"Oh, right." Peter couldn't believe he hadn't thought to do that already. He opened the car door, hesitating briefly before Sylar's shout of, "NOW!" prompted Peter to launch himself from the moving car.

The familiar feeling of disorientation and slight nausea that came from defying gravity fell away as Peter propelled himself high above the trees, looking for the van of the dead man that took Claire.

O o O o O

Claire had been such a clueless idiot—thinking she was so strong and powerful. She actually thought her healing ability made her a hero, but she was wrong.

Her ability could do nothing to stop the attack, nothing to help her fight him off, nothing to help her escape. The power that had made Claire feel invincible was useless, leaving her just as infuriatingly helpless as any other girl stupid enough to run off on her own at night down a dark, empty road.

She fought him, of course. She kicked and elbowed and screamed bloody murder, but in the end, Claire lost. Now she was trapped in a box in the back of some psycho's rape-van.

Her ankles were wrapped tight together with duct tape, as were her wrists. If he'd used handcuffs, Claire could have broken her hands to slip free, her ability quickly healing them, but the bastard used duct tape. If he'd wrapped her wrists up in front of her body, she could have tried to use her teeth to rip the duct tape off, but no, he wrapped them behind her back and stuffed her in a box too small to dislocate her shoulders and slip them over her head.

Pulling as hard as she could did nothing. The duct tape was impossible to break. Who the hell invented this stuff? Claire wondered how many people had been raped or killed because they couldn't free themselves from the evil silver tape. Probably hundreds, no . . . thousands over the years.

And now duct tape had claimed its latest victim, the supposedly invincible ex-cheerleader Claire Bennet. The girl that survived fire, deadly falls, bullet wounds, even a freaking autopsy, was finally taken down by ordinary duct tape.

Claire couldn't even maneuver to get the tape off her mouth. Her muffled screams for Sylar and Peter went unanswered. Two of the most powerful specials in the world were just a short run away, waiting in the motel she'd left them in. They were so devastatingly close, but apparently not close enough to hear her screams.

She could tell from the noise and vibrations that the van was driving, each mile taking her further away from her uncles. As the minutes passed by without rescue, the desperate hope that they were about to save her slowly bled out of Claire.

How could this have happened to her? After everything she'd been through in the past year, it seemed absurd for her to fall victim to something so ordinary, a crime that had absolutely nothing to do with evolved humans with crazy superpowers. Some sick stranger sees her running alone on the side of the road and decides to kidnap her. Claire was just some random girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What was he going to do to her? Rape her probably. Why else would he kidnap her? After what almost happened with Brody, Claire had sworn to herself she'd never let something like that happen again. But here she was, facing something that could be so much worse.

Claire remembered from some news special that if you're taken by an abductor to a second location, it's like a ninety nine percent chance you'll be killed. So after he violates her, he'll probably try to kill her. Will he leave her for dead before noticing her body heal itself? Would she have a chance to escape? What if she can't get free and he figures out her ability?

Oh God, he could lock her up in a basement dungeon to torture, rape and kill her over and over again for days, weeks, even years! Claire's ability would make her the perfect victim. Tears streamed down Claire's cheeks as the true horror of her situation began to sink in.

People would look for her, but in a few years she'd be just another missing person, presumed dead by the world. Only, she wouldn't be dead. Claire's suffering wouldn't end until her kidnapper died. And that could be decades away. At least then it would be over . . . unless he sold her to some other sick freak.

Chills ran up her spine as it occurred to Claire for the first time exactly how horrible her immortal life could be. She could be passed along from one evil man to another, her torment never-ending.

Adam Monroe lived for over four hundred years. That could be her. She could live forever, not as a hero, but as a helpless victim, imprisoned in her own ageless body, locked away and violated, abused, tortured forever. Her ability wasn't a superpower . . . it was a terrible curse.

The duct tape over her mouth made it hard to get enough air as Claire's body shuddered with sobs. Despair filled up the box she was crammed in, stealing her breath. She hated this, hated the fear and self-pity that was suffocating her. Claire hated feeling helpless and weak. And she hated the man that had taken her and made her feel this way.

Anger flared up in Claire, giving her the strength fight against the despair. Her fate wasn't sealed yet. She still had a chance that she could escape. She still had reason to hope. She still had . . . Sylar.

A wave of peace washed over Claire at the thought of him. If she didn't have duct tape over her mouth right now she'd be smiling. Claire wasn't going to spend her eternal life as an eternal victim. She knew without a doubt in her mind that Sylar would never let that happen.

Sylar will find her. He'll never stop looking, never give up. He will do whatever he has to: lie, cheat, steal, maim, kill. Whatever it takes. Sylar will come for her. Claire just needed to have faith in him and hope he found her before her kidnapper had a chance to open the box.

O o O o O

Neil Hakon stepped outside his office, drawing in a deep breath of fresh air. Constellations named for ancient Greek heroes lit up the sky above the trees and cabins of the five acre compound his father built.

He looked out across the central courtyard with pride. About twenty camouflage clad recruits stood in lines, led through their evening drills by his loyal lieutenant, Troy Evans. These were the new heroes, the brave young warriors that would save his people.

Ten years ago Neil would have been one of them, fresh out of high school, eager to prove that he was more than just his father's son. Life was so simple then.

The phone vibrating in his pocket startled Neil out of his reverie. Seeing the caller, Neil's heart began to race. He took a deep breath, trying not to get his hopes up. "O'Brian?"

"Target acquired sir," Taylor reported, a smug grin clear in his tone.

With those three words, the uncertainty that had weighed heavily on Neil since learning of Petrelli's involvement with Claire fell from his shoulders. "Well done, soldier. Bring her home to us."

"Yes sir. I'm on my way."

Returning the phone to his pocket, Neil's mouth stretched wide into a triumphant smile. His plan was going to work.

The recruits' voices rose up in a chant that echoed through the courtyard, giving him chills. "Sieg Heil! White Power! Sieg Heil! White Power!" Neil closed his eyes, savoring the beautiful moment. With Claire in hand, Neil's great destiny lay before him, finally within his grasp.

Author's Note: If you leave a review, I'll reply with a sneak peek of the next chapter! I'll also send you a little EXTRA something that was cut a long time ago and will NEVER be published . . . but I think you'll enjoy it!