A/N- I know it sounds whatever but I really would like to get 300 reviews for this story. It's my 10 year fanfic anniversary in Nov and I'll be doing NaNoWriMo so it would be nice to have that little buzz. Just saying. No pressure.

Chapter 25

Sylar was reliving the events of last night. Sitting in his office, his chair tilting backward, he was lost in daydreams of having Claire writhe underneath him.

It had been wonderful. After he'd professed his love he'd half expected her to fully retreat, telling him that she wasn't ready to accept all that he had to offer her. To his delight, however, she'd taken it in her stride and even confessed that she could love him someday. He'd been on cloud nine and then came the sofa.

He grinned widely. Wow.

He'd always known that Claire was a passionate woman; it was in everything that she did and said.

But last night it was as if he'd awakened some seductive goddess who lured men to their deaths by sensual pleasures. She'd stirred him up, assaulted his senses and turned his world upside down and he didn't care. He wanted her to do it again and he had a feeling that even then it wouldn't be enough.

He was only sorry that their little tumble off the sofa had effectively put an end to those explorations. Claire, once she had calmed down, told him that she wasn't quite ready for that level of intimacy with him. Sylar understood; after all they had only kissed a day ago. So he said good night and left to wander the streets until Peter texted him and said it was safe to come back to the apartment.

Sylar grinned at the ceiling as he leaned back on his chair.

Things were absolutely fantastic. Claire knew that he loved her and she hadn't run screaming. She admitted that one day she might be able to feel that way about him. Peter was getting married and Sylar was going to be Best Man and Angela Petrelli apparently had a rotten cold.

Life was good.

In fact life was awesome.

He tucked his hands behind his head and sighed contently.

"Jeez, Sylar, you could at least make it look like you're doing some work."

Peter threw a folder on the desk in front of him in disgust.

"Nope, I'm in too good a mood to do that," Sylar said, not even looking at his friend.

Peter eyed him curiously. "And why would that be? Huh? You came home pretty late last night."

"I didn't want to interrupt your booty call."

Peter grimaced. "Please don't say that... ever. But this good mood must have some kinda story, Sy. So spill. What happened with you and Claire?" He sat on the edge of the desk and waggled his eyebrows at Sylar. "She had to have done something to make you this goofy. Did she touch your hand? Maybe she smiled at you?"

It took all of Sylar's formidable self-control not to inform his brother exactly where Claire had touched him last night and what, exactly, he had done to make her smile.

His lips twitched. "I walked her home. She invited me up and we … talked. Then I walked around the city."

Peter looked openly skeptical. "Annnddd?" he prompted.

"And nothing," Sylar shrugged. "It was nice talking to her. We hashed some things out and acted like grown ups."

Which was the truth. No child would have done what they did.

Thoughts of it made him shift uncomfortably on his chair. He hoped that Peter would drop it, but his roommate was even more curious than usual.

"Okay, usually when you've spent any positive time with Claire, you can't wait to tell me all about it. Now I'm actually asking and you're keeping quiet. What gives, Sylar?"

Sylar gave him a look. "Last night you were in bed with Emma when I got in. I didn't think you'd want me to come into your room for a late night chat. That isn't the kind of threesome I'd be into, Peter."

"Too much information, buddy," Peter rolled his eyes. "Okay, I'll buy that. And this morning?"

"It didn't come up."

Peter sat back, folded his arms over his chest and raised one eyebrow. His expression showed that he was clearly not convinced and he waited for Sylar to cave and tell him what he needed to know.

Sylar was made of tough stuff but the thing was that he really did want to tell Peter what was going on. He wanted to share his good news with his best friend and have someone to sound things off and help him figure things out. But he had promised Claire to keep it between them and so that was what he had to do. They watched each other carefully as Sylar came to a decision. He couldn't tell Peter what they had done but that was no reason that he couldn't lay a little groundwork and maybe give some half-truths.

He gnawed his lower lip and glanced furtively around before leaning in; Peter leaned closer.

"I think she's actually thawing towards me, Pete. She invited me up to her place voluntarily and we... talked about stuff and she says that she's forgiven me."

Peter's eyebrows shot up and a delighted smile stretched from ear to ear. "I knew it, bud!" He slapped Sylar on the shoulder. "It was only a matter of time."

Sylar grinned. "I know. It's early days but it's a start right?"

"Five years to forgive you, give or take. Give it another three and I'd say ask her out."

Sylar's lips twitched but he managed to hold it back. "Three years?"

"Maybe even two," Peter waggled his eyebrows and poked Sylar. "You turn on the charm and who knows?"

"Yeah, who knows?"

"I think that calls for a celebratory doughnut," Peter clapped his hands. "I'll buy. Away to the cafeteria."

Sylar got to his feet but rolled his eyes at Peter's over exuberant manner. "Have you been watching early Batman episodes again?"

Peter winced slightly. "Uh no?"

The tingles down Sylar's spine made him grimace. He reached over and slapped Peter upside the head. "Lie detector, dumb ass."

Peter rubbed the back of his head, just managing to dodge a towering pile of paper that hurried by on two feet. They both stared after it in bewilderment for a second as it turned a corner.

Peter shrugged.

"Sorry. There may have been a small Batman marathon that I may have caught some of yesterday."

Sylar shook his head in despair. "How is it that a sane, rational woman like Emma has been conned into marrying a loser like you? What power did you confuse her with to make her say yes?"

Peter gave him a lopsided grin as they strolled down the corridor towards the cafeteria. "The power of L'Oreal."

Sylar stared.

"No, seriously, it's the hair." Peter pointed to his growing fringe that once again threatened to descend to emo status. "Emma wants me for my movie-star good looks and amazing hair."

Sylar pinched the bridge of his nose. "Ask a stupid question."

"You're just jealous because you don't have the power of the hair."

"And yet somehow I'll find the strength to live on."

"Your strength is an inspiration to us all."

The randomness of the conversation finally had them both grinning inanely at each other as they rounded the entrance to the cafeteria.

But it took less than ten seconds for the smile to be wiped off Sylar's face.

Maybe it was his Intuitive Adaptability or maybe it was his highly trained Claire-dar but his eyes fell immediately on his girl- His girl, being mauled by that asshole, Ryan, from accounting.

The beach-tanned, bleach-blond surfer jerk had Claire cornered by the sandwiches and was firmly grasping her wrist, plainly ignoring the supreme irritation on her face. There was a lecherous look on his face that stated plainly that 'no' wasn't in his vocabulary.

Anger welled up inside Sylar suddenly, causing a vein-deep thrumming soaring through his arteries, heating up his blood until his very veins threatened to boil and blister over. He'd always imagined the phrase 'seeing red' to be something of a metaphor and it was more than a shock to realize that it was actually possible for a person's vision to take a red hue.

He started forwards before he even realized he was doing it and it was only Peter's sudden- and rather unmanly squeak - that made him pause.

The noise also made Claire glance over the idiot's shoulder and her eyes met Sylar's. There was a warning there- the slightest trace of apprehension but mostly a plea- and one he was helpless to ignore, even though it went against every single part of his genetic make-up.

For Claire he would rewrite his entire base code.

So he did what she begged with those beautiful brown eyes.

Nothing.

Peter, however, hadn't run into a telepath lately, and so when he saw the rough treatment of his niece he started forward, anger etched on his face.

Sylar whipped out and arm and halted him in place. Peter glance down in as much surprise as irritation.

"Sylar, what the hell?"

He shook his head slowly. "She needs to deal with this herself."

"What?"

Sylar swallowed, the words as hard as the actions. "Claire, she's been taking self- defense lessons to boost her confidence in dealing with jerks like this. She needs to be able to fight her own battles."

Peter huffed in disgust. "So what, we let her deal with him? Then what?"

Sylar's eyes narrowed on Ryan. "Survivors are fair game."

-x-x-

Claire had been having a good day. After last night's surprising conversation with Sylar she had assumed that she would be getting little- if any- sleep. She expected that she would be tossing and turning and fretting about the ex-serial killer with a crush. But, somehow, she had let him leave her apartment with a grin on her face that still seemed to be there in the morning.

And it had been a good morning. She'd dressed with an eye towards summer and felt happy as she bounced into work.

Everything had been going so well that it was only time before fate decided to bitch-slap her again.

That annoying jerk Ryan Holden who had asked her out pretty much every day since she'd started working there. And every day she had told him no; sometimes politely but mostly not. Ryan, however, seemed to take that as a challenge.

She queued up at lunch wondering whether it would be a good idea to go for salad as a nod to all of those girls who didn't have the advantage of super-genetics to keep their trim figure or to say hell with it and have the burger that she really wanted.

Her musings were interrupted by a hand sliding smoothly over her ass.

She turned abruptly, cheeks flushed to find Ryan smirking down at her.

"Sorry, Claire, you had something on your skirt."

"Yeah, your hand!" she snapped. "Touch me again and I'll file a sexual harassment charge."

Ryan shook his head. "You know ugly girls made up those sexual harassment laws 'cause they were jealous that hot chicks like you got all the attention."

Claire gaped. "Thank you for bringing the male chauvinist movement back from the dark ages."

"Whatever, babe. Listen I was thinking you, me, j-band up on Freemont, Friday night. Whad'ya say?"

"No." This obviously wasn't one of the polite days.

Ryan pretended to pout. "You playing hard to get?"

"Try impossible," Claire gritted her teeth. "I don't want to go out with you, Ryan. Please stop asking."

He stared at her puzzled. "You a lesbian? Huh, is that it, Claire. You into girls because it's okay if you are," he leered, "really okay."

Claire closed her eyes, praying for strength. "No, Ryan. I'm just really not interested."

She turned her back on him and ignored the salads in favor of the chocolate mousse- screw making other girls feel better. She needed chocolate dammit.

"Ooh, I wouldn't do that if I were you," Ryan leaned down and spoke slowly. "curves are well and good but when fit turns to flab it's just sad. And right now your ass is fine."

She felt a ghost of a hand skate over her ass and her temper exploded.

She whirled on him. "Keep your goddamn hands off me. I'm not interested in you. I don't want to date you and I don't want to go out with you at any point. I'm not a lesbian or a man-hater, I just think you are a sleazy jerk who needs to learn to keep his hands to himself."

"Or what?" he sneered, all trace of seduction gone from his voice. "You'll call daddy? Oh I'm scared."

She curled her lip. "I take it you've not met my dad because that wasn't the appropriate level of fear. He makes guys like you disappear for a living. One call and you'd be irritating the worms instead of me."

She made to walk away but his hands reached up and gripped her upper arm.

"You threatening me, bitch?"

From over the asshole's shoulder she saw Peter and Sylar walk in and knew the moment that they had both seen her situation. Peter's smile dropped off his face and Sylar's easygoing persona melted like butter in the sun. Under the sweet, almost goofy facade that he had been portraying recently lay the sociopathic killer who had just seen his territory invaded and wanted revenge.

It was that look that made her straighten up and tug her arm from Ryan's.

God, she couldn't let him kill this jerk in the cafeteria; for one thing it would put people off their lunch.

"Listen," she hissed. "This isn't a good idea. Trust me on this. Walk away while you still can."

Ryan sneered and leaned in. "I'm not the kind of guy you say no to, Claire."

"No, you're the kind of guy who's gonna end up as road kill if you don't let go!"

Somehow Noah had eventually found out about Claire's run-in with her ex-boss Dirk Ollerenshaw and had demanded that she learn some sort of self- defense. For once Sylar agreed with him and, while the notion made them both feel ill; they wore Claire down until she agreed to take lessons. It was the first of these lessons that flashed into Claire's head as Ryan inched forward.

With a deep breath Claire pulled back and slammed her knee upwards straight into Ryan's crotch.

With a squeal Claire's inner cheerleader was impressed with, Ryan dropped like a stone, holding his crown jewels and whimpering like a baby.

A tiny self-satisfied smile edged across Claire's face even as everyone in the cafeteria stared at the unfolding scene.

"Next time," she said clearly into the silence, "when a girl says no, she means no."

She grabbed her tray and stepped over Ryan helping herself to a well deserved burger and fries.

Her grin exploded as she sauntered past Sylar and a gaping Peter.

"Hey, guys."

Sylar gently closed Peter's mouth for him. "And you wonder why I'm in love with that woman?"