This. This was not intended, among many things. And then it kept going, and I ended up having to cut it off, just like I did with Enchanted, because I honestly just don't want to write it anymore. So here it is, in all its angsty glory, featuring almost-hooker!Claire and broody!Gabriel-Sylar.
Oh, and a warning for plentiful swearing, drugs and alcohol. And I promise that I'm not a smoker. I would die from bronchitis if I was. I just grew up in fun places, and I know my stuff.
I have massive writer's block again for Lie To Me, and when that happens, I start in on my projects. I have an entire iPod playlist of songs I want to write oneshots from (not songfics, but little theme-based ficlets like this one).
This is based off "I'm Not The One" by 3Oh!3. Take a look through, and find all the little song-based easter eggs, if you feel so inclined. Otherwise, read and enjoy!
She was just so young.
Even at twenty-two, sitting on Peter's other side with a drink in her hand, she didn't look more than sixteen. For all the maturity she claimed to have, Claire Bennet still seemed very much like a petulant teenager, at times.
Gabriel frowned into his glass, taking a long, slow drink.
Peter, of course, was charmed by her. She was his niece and she looked up to him, and he reveled in her attentions that sometimes bordered on the inappropriate. Gabriel noticed every time the girl would lay her hand on Peter's arm or shoulder, every time she would playfully take a jab at his ribs when he annoyed her.
As a Petrelli, Peter thought nothing of it.
Gabriel knew better.
She had shown up out of the blue just a few weeks ago, standing in the doorway of the apartment he and Peter shared- had shared, ever since the nightmare all those years ago. They had laid low when Claire took her infamous dive from the ferris wheel, and had somehow escaped notice- unlike Claire.
She was always in the spotlight. She was the new face of their kind, the public's golden girl.
If only they could see her now- a drink in hand, even though it wouldn't affect her, acting like a fool.
Acting like a child.
"You're pouting," Peter teased, his eyes sliding to his best friend. "Better watch out, before another woman comes along and thinks she can melt that cold, brooding heart of yours.
He didn't reply, just shot Peter a mild glare, ignoring the searching look that Claire was giving him over Peter's shoulder.
And then, there were those times- times like these- that Claire would watch him.
She can't possibly know, he thought to himself. She thinks that all those things I said were because of Sylar. She can't know the truth in them. She's just being... Claire.
But sometimes, he wondered.
He pushed himself off the bar stool, standing and stretching. Twin pairs of almond eyes moved to him.
"Cigarette," he said simply. "I'll be back."
"I could use some air," Claire piped up instantly.
Peter frowned, staring at his niece before he, too, got to his feet, leaving a bill on the bar. "Might as well."
They slipped through the crowd, one after another, and Gabriel pretended that he didn't feel a dainty hand fisted into the back of his shirt- probably under the pretense of not losing him in the sea of people, but likely because she didn't want to lose sight of him.
She didn't trust him. It wasn't anything new.
The three crowded under a streetlight, Gabriel pulling out the pack of paper-rolled tobacco sticks and fishing in his pocket for a lighter. It was a habit, now- something he had picked up after the nightmare. For some reason, it seemed to temper the Hunger, drug it into submission. Now, he could hardly remember a time before the smoke had started sticking to his clothes.
Peter reached out for one, and Gabriel handed it over- the younger man wasn't a habitual smoker, like him, but he did indulge on occasion. When Gabriel had asked him about it, he said that the simple act reminded him of Nathan, who had smoked until Peter graduated nursing school and nagged him into quitting. The elder lit Peter's, then his own, the papers flaring yellow before they faded into a dull red glow.
"Can I try?"
Gabriel blinked, glancing at Claire, whose hands were planted on shapely hips, head tilted to the side in expectation. He then looked to Peter, who simply shrugged in what could have been permission, so he gave in.
He held his cigarette between his lips as he handed one to Claire, expecting her to hold it as he went looking for his lighter again. However, when he finally looked up, the girl had placed her own in her mouth, chin lifted in was unmistakably a challenge.
Brown eyes flashed and darkened, and suddenly the nicotine in his system didn't seem so potent anymore.
He reached forward, the flame flickering to life and highlighting the girl's face with a warm light before the dried leaves caught flame. The older man flicked it off, placing it back in his pocket where it belonged, and watched the woman inhale slowly, holding the smoke in her lungs, and exhale slowly, the stick held between two perfectly manicured fingers.
He closed his eyes, turning away from the sight.
He didn't recognize her anymore.
A week later, and they were back in the bar, shots being poured for them. Claire had wedged herself between Peter and Gabriel, this time, lips stained red and blonde hair hanging loose around her shoulders. Green eyes were framed by black liner, standing out in contrast to the tiny black dress that hugged tight to her curves.
Perhaps it was a good thing that she was between them- it seemed to warn off the other men that couldn't tear their eyes from her.
Claire's shot was poured first- not like that was any surprise, with the way the bartender was eyeing her. Gabriel shot him a glare, and the young man quickly averted his eyes.
Claire didn't wait until the man was done pouring to toss hers back, smiling all the while. Gabriel swallowed when the burn of the alcohol made the girl shudder. She took advantage of that little distraction to place her glass back on the table before her hand darted across to grab his, green eyes clashing with brown as she leaned her head back and swallowed in one fluid motion.
Hunger and want clawed at his gut as he watched the gentle roll of her throat.
He was off his stool and out the door before he realized what had happened.
He heard Peter's confused voice behind him, but he couldn't stop now. He was so close to freedom, so close to getting away from her, and he had to do it. The man had been fighting so hard for so long, and for four years, he had managed to keep the Hunger in check.
And then, of course, Claire had to come right back around the way she always did and throw a dent in his plans for reformation.
I don't want her! He thought furiously, finally emerging into the cold New York air, taking it in greedily. The chill sunk into his skin in seconds in a way that was almost painful, and he reveled in it. That pain would keep him level, calculated, sane.
And if he lost a few fingers to the cold, well, they'd grow back.
Not like his mind, if he managed to lose it.
His arm braced on the same streetlamp of days before, protected from freezing metal only by a thin shield of fabric. It was hardly what he would call sufficient protection from the northeast winter, but he never thought he would be out here for an extended time, anyway.
I've been fighting for all this time. I'm not going to lose now- not to her, Gabriel protested silently, despite the thundering of his heartbeat in his chest.
Maybe it could be different, if she was different. But when she looked at him, she didn't see Gabriel. She still saw-
He bared his teeth, spinning to face her, curled slightly in on himself from both the cold and her verbal blow.
"Gabriel," she amended quickly. "Sorry."
"You're not, or you'd stop calling me that," he snarled, averting his eyes from the slender arms that crossed over her ample breasts. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold, darkening with what might have been anger or embarrassment- he didn't care enough to distinguish between the two, at that moment. He deflated when he saw her shiver. "Go inside, Claire. It's freezing out here."
"I'm not leaving you out here," she protested sharply.
If only it was because she cared. If only it wasn't because she's afraid to leave me unsupervised in a crowd of people.
"I'm not going back in."
"You'll get frostbite."
"I'll survive." The obvious dare in his statement narrowed her eyes.
"Then, I guess I will, too," the blonde replied, weaving around the sparse people that passed on the street to stand next to him. He glanced at her from the corner of his eye- she was a stubborn little thing, always had been.
He doubted that he could shake her off, but he would have to try.
Even if her shivering was going to be the death of him.
Gabriel was silent, refusing to speak first. He didn't want her company, and he would make it painfully obvious- not that it wasn't, already. But Claire Bennet never knew how to take a hint, and so she waited.
He refused to acknowledge her, even when she stared at him, her mouth open to speak but no words escaping cherry lips. He didn't move when he tilted her head back against the pole, her hair falling back from her face as she looked up at the streetlight above them. In fact, he probably would have ignored her all night- at least, until her shivering increased and her instinct to seek warmth left her nudged against his side.
It wasn't supposed to be that good, just having her near him. It wasn't fair. Not when he had been trying so hard, not when she was his tormentor, instead of his savior.
"Stop it, Claire," he muttered finally, edging away from her.
"What is your problem?" the young woman exclaimed, arms tightening around herself.
He would not feel bad because her skin was splotchy from the cold and her teeth were chattering. That was her fault, not his.
"You," he growled. "You are my problem, Claire."
"Me? What did I do?" The wide-eyed look she gave him wasn't hurt at all, he figured. Just surprised. Anything else, he was just seeing as an effect of the cold.
"You're here, for one," Gabriel replied. "When you're clearly not wanted. And you never go away."
"Well excuse me for spending time with Peter!" Claire snapped. "I'm sorry that it just so happens that he's always with you! Not that it makes any sense, since you're an asshole."
"You're not here for Peter, Claire, and we both know it!" Brown eyes narrowed and his chest heaved, short of breath from his anger and from the cold air. His lips were starting to go numb. "You're here because I'm here!"
"You conceited-" she started, cutting herself off. "That's bullshit!"
Lies. "No, it's not, Claire! You know it, I know it- hell, even Peter knows it, but he pretends not to notice!" He took a step back from her, because the way she was flushed was not attractive. Not at all. "You're not here for him, you're here for me. You don't trust me, so you're here to keep an eye on me, to make sure I don't fuck up, and so that if I do, you can be the first one to run along and tattle to your daddy."
She slapped him. His skin was so cold that he barely felt it.
"You- you-" Claire stuttered, face flushed with rage and cold.
"I'm sick of you, Claire!" He shouted. "You hover over my shoulder like a goddamned noose, ready for me to make some mistake, any mistake as an excuse to do me in. It's been four years, Claire! Jesus Christ, will you just go home and leave me in peace? Aren't you getting bored yet?"
She stared at him, dumbfounded, but he wasn't done.
"It's hard enough to see your picture in the paper, Claire. Every time I see your face, it's a reminder of something I've done wrong. I can't escape that, will never escape that, because I'm going to have to live with it forever. Don't you get it, Claire? Don't you see who I am?"
"You're Sylar," she whispered finally.
Her slap hadn't hurt, but this felt like she had caved his chest in. He saw, in that moment, that he would never be good enough for her, no matter what he did. No matter who he saved, no matter who he helped, to her, he would always be a monster. She would always be there to remember his crimes and to remind him of them.
"No," he choked, voice cracking. "No, I'm not, Claire. I haven't been for a long time, and I'm not going to be again. So if you're looking for a cheap thrill, if you're looking for someone to try to hurt you, find someone else. I'm not that man anymore."
He took one step backwards, and then another, slowly putting distance between them, despite the tearing in his chest with every inch. Green eyes looked at him, horror-filled, just like they had that very first night- back when she was just a cheerleader and he was a guy in a black cap, hell-bent on ripping away her gift that would one day become his curse.
"I-" Claire started, but he couldn't let her finish. He couldn't hear her sure-to-be cutting response, not when he was already so vulnerable.
She had always been his weakness, and she always knew how to use it to her best advantage.
He turned on his heel- it's just cold, I'm not running, it's cold, damn it- and left her there, standing alone, flushed figure shivering under the streetlamp.