A/N: This is where it all started. This is the end. Thanks to all the reviewers on previous chapters!
Disclaimer: I do now own or take credit for the creation of Heroes. This is meant for entertainment use only.
Warnings: Gossip, implied incest and rape.
The Boy with Black Hair
Claire and Noah Jr. Bennet
The taxi from the airport seemed to be crawling toward the apartment. The air of New York was hot and muggy, and the seats were infested with dirt, candy wrappers, and other things Claire didn't want to think about. Noah was finding those particularly interesting.
Dressed in a bright green jacket and stained jeans, her baby boy was seated next to her, feet bouncing playfully.
Marco, the red-haired driver, glanced back with a handsome grin. "Having fun buddy?" His eyes lingered on Claire's face through the rearview mirror; she gave a sickly-sweet smile before spying out the grubby window. She didn't want to be hit on today, of all days. What made her gag was that in a hundred years, guys his age were still going to be hitting on her. Noah kicked the seat again and nodded, clenching his mom's hand.
"Mom-! I want out."
Claire smiled, touching his cheek. "Yes, mister. Just you wait like five minutes." She glanced outside to the skyscrapers with a quiet face.
The road wasn't clogged, but the pedestrians darting in and out of traffic made it all the more difficult to find a path. Finally, the apartment building came around the corner in all splendid brick; the driver pulled over, sneaking in between a minivan and a bus of tourists. The blonde beauty pressed the money into Marco's hand, curtly thanking him while grasping Noah's hand. "Ready?" she asked, checking for her wallet and phone. Having a heart attack would be kinda wrong in front of her son.
The street and mini plaza spread out before the couple in its concrete glory. Crowds of people in jeans and slacks and dresses were walking in masses past food vendors; a couple of children were eyeing it, like they wanted to beg for food. Claire felt a wry frown tugging her lips as the shadow of the building cooled her face. She pulled on the smooth metal handle of the front door of the apartment. Cold air conditioning hit her face and she herded the five-year-old into the white-washed lobby. There had to be three people wandering around. She gave a slight smile to the doorman.
"I want to talk about flying with Peta," Noah bounced on his feet, teeth shining bright. "And Gabey!" His eyes grew devious. "Will he take me to the moon?"
Claire laughed, approaching the stairwell. Their room was only on the third floor. "No. Talk to Peter about flying instead."
"You can come with us!"
"Peter's taken me up bef-"
Noah began sprinting up the stairs -her hand grasped firmly in his- before she had a chance to brace herself; the blonde woman felt her arm jolt in her socket. "Slow down, Noah!" she said sharply, resulting in a nasty glare from her son. "Hey, I'm in high heeled shoes. Do you want your mom to break her neck?"
The dark eyes gazing up at her were confused. "You can't break your neck."
"Okay, I'll admit it," she brushed Noah's hair back from his high cheekbones. Just gazing into his beautiful eyes made her heart warm. Smiling, she remembered Peter's latest advice about kids- speak to them like they are adults, and let them ask questions. Lots of questions.
The two reached their flight and came out onto the hallway, arms outstretched. Claire ruffled his hair. She fiddled for her keys, setting them into the lock. "Hold on one second..." she muttered, twisting it and hitting the handle with her hand.
The door swung open with a bang and Noah flew towards the couch; halfway there, the little kid's feet hovered a few inches off the floor. The blanket followed over his head, covering him as he made a wooshing noise. Claire grinned, shutting it and deadbolting the lock. She was certain that her son's ability was fate's way of coming back to kick her in the pants. Her son had her ex-boyfriend's and father's ability. Not good.
Everyone she talked to from her old life- Hiro, Ando, Matt, Mohinder- believed that either Sylar or Peter was the father. She sighed, putting her purse onto the granite counter. Light streamed in from the clean window, causing Claire to take a deep, relaxing breath. She never wanted to tell. Never.
Nobody had even known she was pregnant. She had constantly been on the move ever since she had jumped from the Sullivan Bros. Ferris Wheel; from New York to Chicago, then New Mexico, and California...the places had never seemed to be far enough away from the destruction she'd caused. When the EHHCA started, she had made one or two appearances to support the cause before the fear and guilt eating her stomach overtook her again.
And then she met him. One night of lusty, needy sex and a month later, she was heaving vomit down the toilet.
When the time to give birth came around, she checked in to the Coste Verde Hospital with more than a hint of nostalgia. Both her mothers were dead, her father in jail, and no contacts to call. She had thought she was strong and smart enough to escape even the special trackers. Heaving and panting and screaming with sweat running down her face, Claire was certain that she could have a baby. She would have to get a different name, a different social security number, a different life...
And then, out of the blue, Peter and Gabriel had been escorted into the waiting room, stating her fake name. Even disguised in blue scrubs, Peter was beginning to look more mature without the boyish charm and the serial-killer was deadly serious with his bright eyes. She hadn't had time to brush them aside or demand they be removed.
Noah had been born.
She'd forgotten about the two people; all she'd wanted was to hold her baby tightly in her arms.
In the recovery room -and while Peter was walking around with Noah Jr.- she'd asked Gabe about knowing where she was. He'd shrugged. One day, Peter had bashed in his apartment door and told him that if they didn't fly to Coste Verde in two minutes, Claire would be giving birth without any support. That's all it had taken.
Peter and Gabe. They had been her life support as she rested: they watched and fussed over Noah Jr., mediated payment to the hospital, processed all the paperwork, and eventually, drove her to a home that Gabriel had along the coast of California. They hadn't interrogated her. Claire noticed a certain feeling mirrored from her eyes to the two men. They loved Noah without ever knowing about him previously. When Peter had rocked Noah to sleep, there was a part of Claire that felt…at home. Once, Gabe had even held Noah, like he held Matty while situated in Parkman's body. And more importantly, Claire had trusted him to hold her baby.
She trusted them.
It was ridiculous that anyone would say either her uncle or a serial killer was the father of her baby. She had gotten to a point where she ignored any text or call about her boy.
"Hey do you want some lunch?" she called, watching as the lump on the couch made more zooming noises. He had somehow managed to wrestle his shoes off; one was kicked off just below the window and the other was under a spider-plant in the corner. How he accomplished any of the Houdini acts, Claire would never know.
A muffled "Yes!" was her response.
She laughed, beginning to pull out fruit from the refrigerator and simultaneously grabbing a cutting board and sharp knife. Tucked away in the very back, there was a plethora of reds and oranges and yellows. Claire began washing them in the sink. Her hands were guiding a knife into a ripe mango, the flesh parting. She settled comfortably in the light kitchen, mincing fruit on a tray. Bananas, apples, and strawberries were steadily arranged on the platter in a flower shape as only Claire could do. It was the only way to get Noah to eat anything besides processed chicken nuggets.
The shrill ring of her cell phone rang. Hastily wiping her fingers free from fruit juice, she answered without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?"
"Hey, Claire," Peter's voice came through the speaker, "I wondered if you wanted to get a coffee."
"Peter," Claire recognized that he hadn't really been downtown, he just wanted to call her; that thought made her laugh. "You know I picked Noah up from school at two. And you don't go downtown because you're a work-a-holic, Mr. Nurse."
The voice laughed. "You got me. How has Noah been? I mean, besides stealing cookies out of the cookie jar."
Claire shrugged, and nearly dropped the phone. She shifted from her left foot to her right. "He's been bragging about flying. I'm trying to tell him it's something to be proud of, but prudently used. He doesn't care." Claire's mouth twisted. The thought made a part of her afraid. The knife sped up in her fingers, biting into the fruit. "Just like Nathan."
"Have the kids been teasing him at school?"
The single-mother threw her blonde head, putting her anger down. "He doesn't say. I've asked the teachers and they don't seem to notice." Her eyes gazed worriedly toward the living room and her son, who was jumping off onto the floor. "Does that mean I'm just overreacting? Does he only do it at home? I'm so sick of not knowing what to expect."
The dark haired man began soothing her, saying, "I think all mothers go through that-"
"Alone?" The sharp tone bit like a bullet; she winced at the tone. "Sorry. I didn't mean that." Elbows bracing her petite form, Claire sank into the granite countertop, lowering her head. "Noah wants a father." She didn't know why she had said it.
There was an awkward silence before Peter hesitantly asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Tears rolling down her smooth face, Claire nodded, fingers hastily batting at her green eyes. Frowning, she stated, "He told me four weeks ago that a kid in his class had told him he was a bastard. They told him that his dad didn't want him, that his mother was a whore." Her shoulders quivered. "I can't let that continue. I can't."
Peter was quiet for a moment; Claire could hear his quiet breath on the other end, gentle. Then he said, "You remember after Noah's birth? Gabe and I were there for you then, and we are here for you now. Gabriel would do anything you asked," his sincerity made Claire began quietly sobbing just picturing the two of her friends consoling her, "I would do anything for you."
"But what can I tell Noah?" she sniffed, trying to pat away the tears. "These...these kids don't understand. I don't understand what happened."
"Tell him the truth: that you love him and no matter what anyone says, that will never change. Noah is a great part of your life now. I know you. You would never be ashamed of him." Peter let her cry. After the silence, Peter said, "When you called me at 2:43 in the morning to tell me about Noah's flu last spring, I was ready to leave. Gabe was too. After everything, you'll always be first Claire...to both of us. We can be part of your life. We probably will. Always."
"Pete," she smiled through the agony in her chest.
A small chuckle came. "Some people will do anything to tear you and Noah down. Your son is yours. How can he belong to another man when we're his favorite two uncles?"
The load on her shoulders slightly lifted. Claire watched Noah peer over the back of the sofa at her, huge blue eyes hungrily staring at the fruit. She laughed, blinking her eyes clear of tears. In five minutes, Peter had made her day. "Listen, I've got to go, Peter." She motioned for Noah to come over, "I've got a ravenous animal ready to eat."
"Nice to talk to you, Claire," Peter insisted, "Tell me when Gabe or I can come over. He's been chatting up a storm about going flying."
"I will," she whispered, "Thank you. Bye."
With a click, he was gone. Noah came around the counter, hugging her leg. "Food?" he asked, "I'm hungry mom." His eyes smiled charmingly up at her, making her heart swell with pride.
She smiled. Peter was right.
The boy with black hair was hers.