The people she likes are granted life.
They fall at her feet and call her savior, these people she doesn't know. I'm sorry, she says, every time, I don't know you, I'm sorry, what do you want from me? Rumor spreads fast between specials, but Claire has always been kept out of the loop. It's disconcerting when she's finally told. The boogeyman doesn't come for those of them blessed with her sympathy.
It twists like a knife in her gut, except she doesn't feel pain anymore, so it's what she remembers it feeling like, back when she could feel.
At first she is sickened, yet grateful she can help in some way. Even if it makes no sense, even if his mercy, the staying of his hand, cannot be quantified into anything she knows. Why the ones she meets, talks to? How does he even know (though she supposed it's just another ability he's stolen)? Why does her opinion even matter?
How do we make love stay?
She throws off the uneasy flipping of her stomach at the remembrance and tells herself it means something other than what she knows is true.
Eventually, though, it wears at her. All these people, so desperate to live, and they use her just as surely as he used her, without a care for who she is. He'd wanted to live, too. They're not so very different from the boogeyman, in that respect.
He'd cut open her head and looked inside, and she felt like he'd seen every bit of her, and hated to admit that maybe she'd felt the most accepted, the most cherished, at the awe and admiration in his voice, when he'd admitted that he'd never kill her – that he couldn't, even if he wanted to (and he might as well have just clearly said that he didn't want to, he'd certainly made it known). Her life was upside-down and when had it become normal that the serial killer who'd hunted her and cut her open made her feel more than the people who claimed empty love and broken promises?
How often had she heard herself referred to simply as "the Cheerleader"? She was a tool, part of a machination, a plot, a thing to be used and discarded. Just a piece on the board and a lowly pawn, at that. Save the Cheerleader, save the world – only, she'd never been in any danger of dying in the first place. Sylar wasn't the one to go nuclear and blow up the city; that had been Peter. It was like she didn't have a name, wasn't a real person – she was the Cheerleader, and they saw her as such. Naïve. Expendable. Stupid.
When had she stopped caring about the people he killed?
Maybe when she realized that he saw her – more than anyone else. He'd called her Cheerleader to but he hadn't said it the same way – it was said ruefully, teasing. Pressing her buttons just because he knew how, he could, and he liked her reactions. Liked her, in general. Enough to stay his hand on whatever miserable Special he'd tracked down if she'd granted them her time and sympathy. Enough to wish to earn her approval.
When had she given it? When had she let go of the residual fear enough to want to look deeper, to understand? He'd done it for her – he'd looked past the eternally youthful shell and peeled back the layers to the soft beating heart of her, looked deeper than anyone else had bothered so he could truly know her. How could she not do the same?
She stole the files her father kept on him and felt sickened, not by the monster, but by the creators. He was Frankenstein's Monster who named himself and lashed out at those to shape and abandon him, those who rejected him. The father who sold him, killing his mother. The man who bought him, and abandoned him. The woman who made him feel worthless, like he'd never be enough, who couldn't accept him when he'd tried to share himself with her. Her own father, who ruthlessly attacked the weak spots of a man tortured by the awful thing he'd done, intent to use him, to see what made him tick and how he could manipulate his actions. Elle, going along with the whole thing.
It wasn't he who was the monster. The sheep created the wolf, bleated helplessly and cried for redemption when he turned on them. He'd only looked for some way to be special, to finally gain acceptance and maybe even love, and he'd been cursed and thrown back at every turn. Seen the people who'd made him look at him in horror and fear and refused to see the changes when he made them, and it got to be where he'd rather they look upon him with hate and fear than indifference. He could play the monster, he could revel in it.
He was lost. Broken. He didn't stop to look long enough in the mirror to fix himself.
She came to him shattered and reformed, into someone meant to be his equal. She could forgive, and more than forgive – she could love. She'd show him the answers he'd been looking for, what had driven him relentlessly to do horrible things. She could show him a love that would always stay.
The people didn't look for her anymore, didn't find her in the streets to touch her hands and hair and look upon her with adoring eyes and beg to be saved. There was nothing left she could save them from. She didn't care if they no more seemed to remember her name than they had back when she was fifteen and simply the Cheerleader.
After all, Gabriel always called her Claire, and long past when those people were dead and ash, she'd wake up beside him in the morning to a slow smile and warm eyes as he whispered her name against the skin of her neck. That was enough.