2007-09-14: Middle Of The Road


Claire_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: Claire and Nathan discover they have something in common. Grisly deaths in the future. Still, it could be worse.

Date It Happened: September 14th, 2007

Middle Of The Road

The Petrelli Mansion

Ah, the Petrelli Mansion. Home to Petrellis and awkwardness. When Claire makes her approach in the early hours before school, in grey running pants with their cute little pink stripes and grey sneakers and pink tee shirt, she's just the picture of matchy-matchy. Hair pulled back into a careless ponytail, aided by a little elastic headband, she looks like she could be getting ready for a morning jog. If she weren't, you know, here an hour before school. She told her parents she offered to help a teacher before school, so now no one should expect her here. Especially not the residents inside the building.

So now, here she stands, stomach churning as she tries to decide what to do. To knock or not to knock unannounced, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to… Oh, heck with it. Pulling one hand out of the her pocket of her grey windbreaker, the blonde teenager juts out a finger and presses the doorbell, only to plunge her hand back into her jacket to wait.

A good number of people could open the door. Heidi could, for example, maybe even one of the boys if they were feeling so adventurous - and most assuredly, hired help is on that list as well. But no, not today. There's a scrabble of claws against hard floor, and deep barking. The puppies, Julius and Caesar, aren't really puppies anymore, at least not in terms of size, but excitability? Yes.

Claire will hear them scrabbling at the door, probably dragging their claws against expensive wood - which is why Nathan rushes to stop them, grabbing them by their collars and dragging the twin Rottweilers back. "It's too early," he mutters at them, nudging the beasts back with his legs and jerking the door open, blocking the way out with his body, and only when he makes sure his pet dinosaur dogs aren't going to kill anyone does he actually see who it is. "Claire?" Dressed neatly but casually, it's clear Nathan doesn't have anywhere to be soon, despite his campaign. "What're you— " Nathan grips the door a little tighter as a dog threatens to knock him over in an effort to greet the stranger. "— …good morning."

Her biological father's state of disarray is certainly enough to give Claire pause, and she suddenly debates the wisdom of coming here immediately before school as opposed to immediately after school. She's probably being totally disruptive. She's already here, however, and thus it is too late for such concerns. She pulls her hand back out of her jacket so she can defensively cross an arm over herself in order to rub idly at the other arm, only to then jut a thumb over her shoulder. "Is now a bad time? I… I can come back. Or, you know, call." Living in the same city makes etiquette so hard to figure out. Having lived in the same house for a bit only blurs the line. Why does everything have to be such a pain in the neck to suss out?

Nathan casts her a slightly wry smile when she mentions calling ahead, because yeah, that would have been nice. But then he glances over his shoulder. Two pairs of dog eyes stare happily up at him, tails a-wagging, and he looks back at her. "Believe me when I say that no amount of walking will ever make it not a bad time. Come in." He widens the door and steps back, immediately gripping the collars of Caesar and— damnit, Julius. The dog is slightly too quick, darting out of range and bounding happily to drool on and hopefully get petted by the blonde girl.

But in a way, the two dogs are useful. Nathan can focus on them, at least peripherally, rather than the teenager at his doorstep - and the fact that he never did pick up the phone and stay in contact like he'd told Peter he would. Hell, as far as he can tell, Heidi is doing a better job at staying in contact, even if it is by accident.

Claire does little dogs. Dogs that are easily fit into purses and designer dog tote bags. "Thanks. I'm really sorry if— " When the MAMMOTH MAMMAL comes bounding at her, her blue eyes widen. And then there it is, in front of her and jumping. Her hands fly out to catch two paws and keep them off of her clothes. "Hi, puppy," she offers with a nervous smile as she fights to support the unbalanced wagging weight. It's not going to eat her, right? The wagging tail suggests that it's unlikely. "They're… big dogs," she comments, unsure of how to transition into what it is that she really wanted to talk about. How to not sound like an idiot. Is this ever going to get easier? 'Unlikely' says the 8 ball.

"Yeah, they— Julius." The dog's head whips around to give Nathan a sad look for yelling at him, but Julius finally backs off - enough for Claire to walk in, but he remains close, tail wagging as he looks up at her. Nathan lets Caesar go, the other dog moving in to sniff at Claire's shoes as Nathan shuts the door. "They were smaller when I bought them," he finally finishes his sentence. Now what? Nathan can only assume she's here for a reason, but he's pretty sure that 'well, what is it?' isn't a good way to speak to your biological daughter, so instead he clears his throat in order to buy time, then offers, "Would you like anything? Water, or…" He catches himself noticing what's Meredith about her - which is purely physical, because the girl seems far too… well, nice to be Meredith, but all the same.

"Water would be awesome." Claire is quick to take Nathan up on his offer, all too eager to latch on to any excuse that avoids even more convoluted ways to avoid getting to the point. Because jumping right to the point is RUDE. So says Texan etiquette. She slips inside, quickly moving to the side of the door and clear of the hell hounds that guard it. "I heard your campaign on the radio," she ventures for the sake of continuing conversation. "It's… really hip." Hip hop. Funny, ha ha. It's also really weird. To the dog at her side, there are small, hesitant pats to the top of his very broad skull. No more jumping, please.

…hip. Nathan glances at Claire over his shoulder, then lets out a slightly uncomfortable chuckle. "That ad sure is something," he says, moving to grab a glass and bottled water out of the fridge. Twisting off the cap, he doesn't really look at her when he pours it into the glass, happy to talk. "It's meant to be replaced soon, I'm starting to regret ever clearing it. We're going with Billy Joel now instead of whatever it is bored interns think is cool at the time." He slides the glass over to her, and now the look he gives her is curious - and slightly knowing. Almost a 'yeah this is as awkward for me as it is for you' look, but that's as much of an assurance as he can conjure.

Well, at least that's something they can agree on. Some bit of common ground. They both think it's incredibly clumsy to stumble through this conversation because on some level they both recognize that they should. They should try to make with the talking and the communicating, even though neither really knows how. She has, however, figured out that it's easiest to launch into conversation by using something that doesn't assume that the father and daughter actually share anything, save this common lack of knowledge as to how to make this STOP being so painfully delicate and strange. "Have you talked to Peter since he got back?"

Man but is Nathan getting that question often these days. He leans his hip against the kitchen counter, arms folded. The dogs are off wrecking havoc elsewhere in the mansion, leaving the two alone for now, with only the hum of the refrigerator there to occupy the inevitable awkward silences to come. "I've talked to him," Nathan confirms with a stiff nod. Then, he squints at her a little. "Did you know he was going— where he was going?" Just in case she doesn't, because it occurs to him that maybe Peter had some elaborate cover story for her. Probably not, though.

"You mean with the…" Insert vague, wavey hand gesture here. Sign language for Off to the Future. Infinity and Beyond. She shakes her head. Negative on the advance notice. "I found out after he got back." Claire squints one eye as she reaches up to rub the back of her neck. How do you tell your biological Dad that the future looks like it really sucks and she wants to try to get things right in case things go really wrong? In this scenario? God only knows. Dropping her arm, she pushes her hand back into her jacket pocket. "Sounds like a fun vacation."

Yeah, she knows. Nathan made a similar wavey hand gesture to Jack when he explained his brother's whereabouts - it's a universal thing. Hand impression of a salmon swimming upstream = future going. "Yeah, the… that," Nathan confirms, with indirect irritation. Not everyone approved of Peter's shenanigans and he's still one of them, in a way, despite the importance of the information brought back. "The next two years aren't looking so good, no." He inclines his head to her. "What did he tell you?"

"Not a lot," Claire admits with a sigh. Her lips curl downwards in a frown. It's like a scavenger hunt made passionate love to a jigsaw puzzle and gave birth to this illegitimate mystery that is Peter's trip to the future. "Big storm. New York goes to hell. Sylar survives, and he's got a cool regeneration power that makes it look like I don't." Cue the nervous chuckle that heralds the blonde's look down to the floor as she lifts her toes. Look at those toes curl in her shoes. Cool toes. When she looks back up, she's got the hide-it-all smile well in place underneath hopeful arched eyebrows. Maybe it doesn't have to suck for both of them. "How about you? Did you at least get better news?

The flicker of expression on Nathan's face indicates that he wasn't aware… actually. Actually. No, Peter had speculated to him briefly that Claire had been killed - in the same breath of confirming that Monty had been killed, also. Maybe Nathan can be cut a break, for that reason, for not asking further. Still, he knows a guilty twinge, though it doesn't show, and he studies the floor (or maybe his toes also) - until Claire brings up that next question, and a strained smile mirrors her masking one. "I don't think anyone gets a happy ending in this future," he says lightly, cryptically, rapping his fingers briefly against the counter surface. "It wasn't great news for me either. Getting killed, wasn't on the to-do list."

He's not about to go into the whole… evil, insane President thing. He has enough strikes against him, here! But there it is, they both have ultimately grisly fates should everything go horribly wrong - so maybe there's another thing in common. "But now we can make sure none of that ever happens," Nathan tags on. Obligatory optimism activate.

Claire is all about jumping on that bandwagon. Good idea, Dad. Both of her hands go out to gesture emphatically at her father with palms turned up. Her eyes are opened perhaps a bit too wide, bright, blue-eyed cheerleader's enthusiasm shooting forth from their depths like a laser beam. There. That part's done, now we can forge the path ahead to new territories of uncomfortable. "Right!" And then… she runs out of things to say. Her hands drop, only to lightly brush against her thighs a few times in a 'crap, what do I do now?' gesture. "…I probably should get going. Before Heidi and the kids come down. I just…" Wanted to see you. And the best way to do that was to surprise you so you couldn't dodge. Or hang up. "Yeah. Next time, I'll call first. I just wasn't thinking. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. It just helps, I'm not at home a lot nowadays," Nathan says, not about to discourage the civil practice of calling ahead but attempting - trying - not to be callous about it. And then he sort of makes the connection - she wasn't here to just ask about Peter, she can find him herself, and she's— well she's leaving now so there mustn't have been anything else she needed then to simply… do far, far better at this whole— thing than he's been doing. Inwardly, he curses at his own obliviousness, and outwardly, he smiles at her politely. "It's a school day, you should probably get going," he agrees. Hesitant pause, then he adds, "Do you need a ride in?" He might not even crash the car this time, but at least she'd survive it if he did.

Fortunately for Nathan, the gesture is more than enough to tide Claire over for a good long while. "Nah, it's okay." There's a shrug of those slender shoulders, trying to communicate that she really doesn't want to be a disturbance any more than she already has. She even dodged the glass of water thing. "I'm really getting the hang of this mass transit thing." And again, with the running out of things to say. 'Tell Heidi, Monty, and Simon I said hi?' Yeah. No. Because then it looks like she's either avoiding them or intruding on their lives. …And that's the only segue out of this conversation that she can think of that would be an even remotely graceful transition. "It… It was good to see you," she finally manages. "I'll see myself out. I can't wait to hear the new ad." And with that, Claire turns on her heel and starts making her way towards the door with hands plunged back in her pockets, quietly heaving out a small breath between whistle-curled lips as soon as her back's turned. That could have gone worse. It could have gone better, too, but it sure as heck could have been worse. In this instance, she's very content with 'middle of the road'.

Thought that counts. Nathan can dig that. And perhaps an awkward car ride is exactly what's not needed, because he can't help but feel a little relieved when she turns it down. "You too, Claire," he tells her, and he's pretty sure he even might mean it, despite it constantly being awkward as hell without really indication that the awkwardness will ever leave, but. All the same. It could have been worse. It has been worse. At least she's using the front door to leave rather than a window this time.

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