2008-03-19: Melting Point


Claire_icon.gif FuturePeter_icon.gif

Summary: Who would've thought someone's melting point might involve ice cream?

Date It Happened: March 19th, 2008

Melting Point

Park - Queens

Claire shouldn't be sneaking out in the middle of the night. She also should not be without her annoying Company bodyguard. That does not change the fact that she is, on both counts.

In the middle of Queens, the teenager has found a playground to haunt with the silence of a spectre. Perched upon a swing, she idly pushes herself back and forth in a sway with no real energy or motion. Bundled up a thick navy wool peacoat and white knit hat and scarf — bought to replace that which was destroyed in her transportation to Pinehearst, she leans her head against the chain that helps support her seat. Her blue eyes, nearly black in the moonlight with the thick frame of black kohl, look over the hill not too far away and watch the lights of the lower suburbs twinkle.

The fact that she's not alone could be much worse than it is. Someone watches quietly from a distance, hidden in the shadow of a tree, and masked by abilities. The lurker could be someone dangerous, and to certain people he likely is. But not to this one.

For a moment, the presence of anyone else leaves the area, only to return a minute later. Footsteps can be heard behind the swing set. Hair slicked back out of his face, dressed all in black, Peter doesn't look too much different from the last time she saw him. A stern set to his mouth, a bit more stubble standing out on his face. And a shadow cast where there shouldn't be one. It's the two plastic cups he's holding that seem completely out of place. Ice cream, scoops of it in plastic cups with lids, complete with napkins and plastic spoons held against the cups.

"You shouldn't be out here alone," he says in whispered tones, voice raspier than the one she'd know best. Then again, it could have been a long couple of months since they last saw each other in person.

Claire gasps as she pushes herself out of the swing with a few boot-heavy paces, stick-straight blonde hair whipping about her shoulders as she turns around. She then stares at her uncle with a little bit of uncertainty. Her blue eyes narrow as she looks at the ice cream tubs, and then back up to him. "You sound like you've been talking to Dad." Because of the nature of his message, not his voice. Finally, her arms cross under her breasts and her eyebrows lift a little, taking the edge of her thick stocking cap with them as she frowns. "Did he put you up to this? Because I don't need another Bennet Pep Talk."

"Your father wouldn't ask me to talk to you. He'd probably shoot me if he knew I was," Peter voice lacks any humor. That too may sound like he's been talking to her father. He glances up toward the sky once, as if waiting for the helicopters to descend. If she had been secretly followed, the fact that Peter Petrelli is standing next to her might raise quite an alarm. Imposter? Escape? It could be anything. One of the ice cream containers is held out toward her in offer. "Just because you shouldn't be alone, doesn't mean I'm not glad that you are," he adds, voice softening just a bit as the shadows of the night continue to play along his face in strange ways. "I was hoping I'd get a chance to find you without a bodyguard. It's been a while since we've been able to talk."

Claire looks at her uncle and then the container for a moment longer than she normally would, suspicious, before finally stepping forward to claim the cup. "Wanna step into my office?" she jests, tilting her head towards the swings. "Dad's gone off the deep end with this bodyguard stuff. I mean, this guy's following me everywhere. He's a total dweeb, too." Shrugging, she starts making her way back to the swing she was on before so she can sit and enjoy Peter's food offering to the Temple of Teenaged Angst. "How you been?"

Ice cream was something he had promised to share with her back in the late months of the year before this. It's not a promise he's forgotten. Once she's accepted the offering, Peter settles into the swing next to her, with his own ice cream container opened so he can sample it as well. There's chocolate chunks, nuts and crumbled cookie bits sprinkled on the top. "You'd think he would find one of the few cool bodyguards that the Company has at their disposal. I know there's a couple that are capable of human conversation." A rare couple. There was a question that she asked there at the end. Instead of answering it, he eats a spoonful of his dessert, shifting the swing with one nudge of his foot. "Are you okay?"

He's dodging. Claire shifts her attention from the diabetic coma paradise in her hands back to the man who sways beside her. He sways, she twists, pivoting the swing a few degrees around the planted ball of her foot. "I asked first," she counters before scooping out some of the cold confection and inverting the spoon as she pushes it into her mouth.

The harsh tones lighten even more as she calls him on his dodging. "So you did," Peter says softly, looking away from where she faces him for a moment. "Remember how I knew I had to save you— save the cheerleader, save the world? How Hiro Nakamura traveled through time to try to stop the bomb that would destroy New York, and how he'd figured saving you was the key to everything." There was misplaced information, but either way the cheerleader was saved, and New York didn't blow up because of it.

The ice cream is settles down onto his lap, and he raises one of his hands up between them. That hand suddenly bursts into flame, similar to something she'd have seen from her biological mother— only with him, the flame is blue instead of red. It casts enough light across his face to make the scar more visible. No longer a trick of shadows and light, something very real. Not only that, but he looks a little older, especially with the darkness in his eyes.

The spoon stays in Claire's mouth, upside down. It's appropriate, considering the revelation sitting next to her, but her brain doesn't go there. Instead, it focuses on making sure she keeps breathing in an even keel. After a long moment, she finally pulls out the spoon and swallows. "I… I don't understand," she manages after a shake of her head, her confusion apparent. "You're… from the future?"

The fire snuffs out as he closes his hand, a trail of smoke remaining behind. The flashburn of blue light remains in their vision for a moment, their eyes needing to readjust again to make up for it. "Four years," Peter answers simply, not returning to his ice cream just yet. "I wish I could say I know exactly what to say, exactly who to say it to, but I don't." There's a pause. "It's probably better that your father not know I'm here. We're not exactly on good terms right now."

"You and half of everybody I've ever met," Claire laments, a hollow and insincere chuckle rolling from her throat into the night air. She turns her attention back down to ice cream she holds, stabbing at it a few times with her spoon before she continues. "So. Every time someone comes time traveling, it's usually because something cataclysmic happens in the future, right? I mean, 2008 wasn't exactly a tourist year, I bet." She gives her uncle a sidelong glance, her spoon still idly twirling in place in the cup and beginning the slow process of making ice cream soup. "So why are you back?"

"He means well, for you at least," Peter says about Noah Bennet, a slightly different take than his current self might have on things right now. There's no changing that there's tension there. "This year was not the token year. I'm starting to think I should have gone further back." He had reasons for choosing this particular moment in time, all centered around the fact he has a window of opportunity where his present counterpart is locked away. "Pinehearst. The Company that held you for so long. My father's company." There's a pause, he could add in another member of the family there too, she knows that. Her father's company. Her real father. "They're working on something. Something… dangerous." After he says that, he finally goes back to sugary non-dangerous goodness.

"Oh." Claire scoops out a second bite of ice cream, but it never makes it to her mouth. Instead, she heaves a heavy sigh, sets the spoonful back in her cup, and then rests the whole mass back down on her lap. She's suddenly not really all that hungry, and the ice cream is really just making her feel that much colder. In light of the subject's gravity, she has difficulty finding the courage to look up again immediately. "Is this about the blood? Or is this something else?"

"It's not you," Peter says, gruff voice lightening even more. It's almost to it's usual tones now. The spoon is stuck back into his ice cream and he reaches across the distance to touch her arm as he puts his foot down to stop any swaying. "It's not you, or your blood, though I intend to make sure something is done about that soon. It was supposed to be done already, but…" Her father locked him away. "Your blood won't be used for that, I promise. It's… something else they're experimenting on. Another project." There's a pause for a moment. "They want to create a formula that will give abilities to anyone."

Excused from blame, Claire looks back up to her uncle, her head tilting. In the moonlight, she can still see the scar that cuts across his face. It's strange, and it helps her to remember that this is some Ghost of Christmas Future, come to warn of the darkness to come. "Nathan wants to play God. Or… or whoever that is. Every time I try to talk about him, people like to change the subject." The touch on her arm is comforting, and she answers it with a steady, level gaze. "What can I do to help?"

"It's not Nathan. It's my father," Peter says firmly, looking down at his neglected ice cream. The cut across his face stands out even more with his head tilted downward. "Nathan doesn't help the situation, though. It's not entirely his fault— he's sick, but it doesn't excuse what happened." Maybe it never can. Of course he has a slightly different perspective than his current counterpart might have, not that he's able to tell anyone.

His hand squeezes on her arm, "I've given your name to a friend of mine, a man I trust with my life, with the lives of those closest to me. I'm counting on him to do most of what needs to be done, to fix the things that need to be fixed. I didn't have any contact information for you, though. But I can give you a way to contact him, when you're able to get away from your bodyguards again." The hand on her arm has to be released, and he reaches into his coat pocket to fish out two cards. One printed in black, the other handwritten. "The printed one is my number, the handwritten one is his. His name is Jack."

Unwrapping one of her gloved hands from the cup of ice cream, Claire resets the lid at a haphazard angle upon the bit of styrofoam and then reaches it out to take hold of the card. "Jack?" The likelihood that it's the same Jack she knows — particularly in Manhattan — is so slim that she doesn't give it more than a passing consideration. She then slips the card into the pocket of her coat. "I'll call him soon as I can. It may take a bit. Dad's been getting a little hot about my 'alone time.' But I will. I will call him. Soon as I can." Her forehead crinkles a little as she ducks her head and leans in a little. "I want to help."

"Take as much time as you need. The last thing I want is for your father to tighten your protection in fear of what you're getting yourself involved in," Peter says, reaching a hand up to touch her forehead gently, as if he wants to push hair out of the way. Maybe he is. His hands are plenty warm, even with the fire long snuffed out. The chill doesn't seem to bother him much. "I'm sure you know this already, but calling from a pay phone is probably best. If you need to call me for any reason… you can. Even from your own cellphone. I'm not worried about the Company tracking me with it. But they might be able to track him."

The blonde teenager laughs again as a bit of her bangs are brushed a little further from her eyes. It's soft and barely formed, but it's there. One her eyes squints up and her nose crinkles like some squirming toddler, but Claire's lips curl into a dim echo of a smile that borders on an uneven grin. "Dad can't stop me," she offers, tipping her hat to ye old adolescent rebellion. "He can try all he wants, but he's gonna figure it out sooner or later." Then there's a strange glint to the girl's eyes, the moonlight shining off of them wrong, perhaps. "I'll do what I can."

For what little good it does. This is the second time Peter's traveled in time because the future is wrecked. Things change, and the future still sucks. It's hard to believe in the evitable-ness of a future. What if the future is never right? What if it's like a cosmic slots game, where you have to pull the lever and just hope that what comes up is the best that is coming and leave it there?

Fortunately, youthful hope is not yet completely dead. Its light shines palely past the doubt's great gaping maw and into the bottomless abyss of despair, brave and fragile. Tonight, Claire chooses to still hope. She doesn't smile, but there is an intense sincerity in her gaze.

"We can still fix this."

"I know we can. I wouldn't be here if I didn't," Peter says, tone softened as he looks across at the teenager, the niece who once gave him so much hope that he could do something special. Important. That he could save the world. It may be for that reason that he needed to see her again.

"I won't stop," he says firmly, determination around his eyes, set in his jaw. The line dug into his face, an unhealed scar, may be a calling card of the darkness of the future, the one that they may want to avoid. Or maybe that's something he can't avoid. And never will be able to. "Not ever. Not until we make a future that's better." The hand shifts to her shoulder, touching her arm.

"I missed you. The whole beginning of this year. I wanted to see you." And he apparently wants her to know that. His hand drops away as he begins to look back at his ice cream. The poor, almost forgotten, ice cream.

"I missed you, too, Peter." While Claire doesn't move to offer such signs of familiarity, she gladly takes the comfort that her Future-Uncle provides. "But I guess there really wasn't anything that you — he? — could do about it. Things have been a little crazy." Her eyes roll a little in emphasis of the word 'little', teasing despite the seeming inappropriateness of such a gesture. "Besides. You're here now." She pauses, caught by a thought that she voices soon after. "…Please don't tell me that it took you four years to get around to it."

"That and… your father pretty much banned me from seeing you," Peter says with a hint of a shrug. A few years ago, he might have been bitter about it. Right now he's less so. "It won't take four years, though. As soon as… I was able to… I went ahead and visited you without your father's permission. I don't think anything I do here will change that." Or at least he hopes it doesn't. There's a lot that could happen. "Just make sure he still keeps his promise to take you to ice cream. This doesn't count." That's a hint of a joke. And he's almost smiling. Almost.

The hint of a joke gets a hint of a laugh, Claire's head suddenly dropping in a sheepish display. When she looks back up, that almost-smile of Peter's is upped into a smile that speaks more plainly of amusement. "I'm almost eighteen, not ten! I think I know that there are some things that are a lot more important than ice cream." Pulling back at last, Claire begins swaying her swing back and forth anew. The smile fades after that, her brow knitting as the heaviness of concern and worry settles back on her. "Just… don't die, okay?"

There's a small pause. The mention of her age seems to have made him think of something. He doesn't even need to reach into his pocket. A palm sized silver pocket watch just appears in his hand, flipping open without him needing to touch it. After a moment of examining it in the dark, with eyes that don't need much light to see by anymore, Peter muses in mild wonder, "You are almost eighteen, aren't you…" It seems to take him by surprise. Even without time travel making things complicated, it seems like only yesterday he was tossing rocks at her window and taking her to birthday ice cream in the middle of the night. He flips the pocket watch (which even in the dark looks far too complex for it's own good) closed again and looks back at her. "It takes a lot to kill me. And I don't want to die." Like that alone will be enough. The silver pocket watch gets pushed back into a pocket and he shifts so he can swing too.

"Good." Taking a deep breath and cradling her ice cream in both of her knit-wrapped hands once more, Claire pushes herself to her feet. The precious sugary cargo is held against her chest as though it were a sacred vessel. "As much as I don't want to, I probably should be getting back. The warden's gonna be by for light's out soon. If I'm not there, it's not gonna be pretty." Her lips twist apologetic, her shoulders shrugging as a ripple of that sentiment.

"I know," Peter says, moving to plant his feet, moving to stand as well. The long coat falls into place where it should be, and the cup of ice cream continues to be held in his hand, the spoon sticking out. The lid hasn't been replaced, held by his thumb against the cup. He nods in response, not appearing to be insulted by her need to head back right now. He reaches out and touches her hair again, pushing it back behind her ear. "It's fine. You should get back before they send out a search party. Just remember you can call me. Or text message me. If you ever need anything at all. Only reason I wouldn't answer is if I've gone back to where I came from." That's the only reason that he can think of, at least. "Sleep well and take care of yourself."

"You, too." Claire watches her uncle for a moment, and her gaze is momentarily held captive by the garish mark across his face. He… He should have been able to heal that. The touch gets him a smile, but even that fades as her concern takes hold. One of her hands again lets go of the cup of ice cream so that she can rapidly move forward and throw her arms around her Future-Uncle's waist. "Please, please, be careful."

In the present day, the hug would have been returned pretty much immediately. With this man, though, it takes a moment. Peter seems to be taken aback by it, even stepping away at one point until she gets her arms all the way around him. After a moment, his eyes close and suddenly she has two hands on her, one decidedly colder than the other. The cup of ice cream that should have been in his hand is just gone. It doesn't matter where. Should have been able to heal, but didn't. Face burying into her hair for a long moment, his arms tighten around her. "I will. I promise." One of a million promises.

Claire presses the side of her face against Peter's chest, clinging to him as if somehow she could keep him safe if he would just stay here with her. But that's not feasible. It's not practical. It's not fair. Her free hand tightens, taking hold of his coat and clenching her fist around it. After a few moments, though, she sighs and steps away. "Right. Warden." There's a tentative smile as she tries to keep her composure well intact. "Bye, Peter." That now said, she's not waiting. She's just slipping past him, away from the pseudo-bluff and the playground, and back towards the sidewalk, nearly breaking into a trot with her briskness of step.

Now that he's been hugged, getting his mask back up takes a few slow breaths. It managed to break the seriousness that surrounds him. Until it starts to reappear. Peter nods, stepping back a little as she starts to move away. "Not bye, Claire. We'll see each other again soon," he insists, just loud enough she can still hear him. But if she turns around, he's no longer standing in the park.

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