2007-05-07: Not Quite A Chip Off The Old Block

Starring:

Claire_icon.gif Heidi_icon.gif

** Guest Starring **

Simon and Monty Petrelli

Summary: A chance encounter at the zoo leads to the introduction between Heidi and Claire. Monty is cute. And apparently Spike is a Russian tiger.

Date It Happened: 7 MAY 2007

Not Quite a Chip off the Old Block


Bronx Zoo, New York

So, hey. They're looking at something other than cows at the zoo today. The kids seem to go in shifts - one week it's cows, another it's tarantulas, this week it happens to be tigers, because according to Monty, Spike is going to grow up to be a tiger.

Yeah, Heidi was rather perplexed, too, not because cats can't grow up to be tigers, but because Spike has no stripes. One could always suppose that she'll grow into them as she ages, but that's beside the point at the moment. They've been hanging around the zoo's tigers for just about a half hour now, and while the younger of her two boys tells everyone that'll listen about their kitten and how she could /totally/ take on a tiger, Heidi's sitting on a bench nearby, looking through the pictures she's managed to get on her camera today.

Mostly tigers. But at least they're not cows.

It's a nice day for the zoo, at least. Warm, no clouds - which means no rain - and lots of people all over the place, which means it's not too likely she's going to be carried off and held for ransom again. Yes, she's paranoid now, but she can't afford not to be. She also can't just stay inside for the rest of her life.

—-

Similarly paranoid but unwilling to stay cooped up in her house any longer, Claire Bennet is walking the paths of the zoo somewhat aimlessly. Her arms are crossed, her hands lying against her upper arms as if she were comforting herself. Not that she looks melancholy, really. Her expression is more pensive than anything else. Her hair is left down, though kept back from her face with a red headband. She hasn't yet noticed Heidi or the boys, and it's difficult to say whether she would stop even if they were to catch her attention. The tigers are another story entirely, however; as she nears the exhibit, she turns her attention to them and leans against the railing, watching them quietly.

—-

Heidi hasn't ever seen Claire before. Has no idea what the girl looks like - all she has is an age and a name. She's thought about the girl from time to time, considering the timing of the whole thing - she and Nathan knew each other, at least, but it was so long ago that after the initial shock, she couldn't hold it against him /or/ his daughter. Once upon a time, she told Peter that she just wasn't ready to meet Claire face-to-face.

However, the boys really have no qualms. Granted, they don't know what she looks like, either, so it's mere coincidence that Monty leans on the rail next to Claire and says, pointing to the tigers, "Hey, I have a kitten. She's only about half that size now."

—-

"Oh yeah?" Turning when Monty speaks to her to look at him with a warm smile, Claire arches a brow curiously. As yet, there's been no flicker of recognition in her face. She wasn't really expecting to wind up face to face with her half-brothers today. "Half that size?" She slides a look from Monty to the tiger, considers the large cat for a few seconds, then returns to Monty once more. "She's gonna get pretty big, then, huh?" A quick laugh accompanies her words, and Claire asks jokingly, "Is she part tiger?"

—-

Oh, Monty is absolutely thrilled when someone responds! Meanwhile, Heidi's over on the bench, snickering to herself and rolling her eyes. So far, the kids have been well-behaved enough so that she doesn't have to separate them from the public. Simon, too, is rolling his eyes and pretending he's not related at all to Monty, because he's /WAY/ too cool for this.

"Mom says no," the boy replies, disappointed, pointing back at Heidi. He'd very much like to have a huge tiger in the house, but everyone else says that Spike's not going to get that big. "She's part Russian, though. I think?"

"She's not 'part Russian,'" Simon mutters, looking up to Claire, because he's the big brother, so he /has/ to explain /everything./ "She's a Russian Blue."

—-

"Really?" Claire glances to Simon when he speaks, and something strange flashes through her eyes. Maybe recognition, but she shakes it off, turning back to Monty. Her voice takes on a somewhat conspiratorial tone as she crouches down, so as to better speak with Monty. "I've never heard of a Russian Blue tiger before. I guess that means you're going to have the first, huh?" She smiles once more, warmer now than before, and rises back to standing. With her weight shifted to lean back against the railing, Claire turns from the tiger cage and casts a cursory glance over the zoo visitors gathered nearby. She's searching, albeit inconspicuously.

—-

It's at this point that Heidi stands, sighing, taking a few steps toward the tiger enclosure so that she's sure the boys see her.

Monty doesn't, though. "I hope so," he says. "The other kids at school have big dogs, but mom wanted a cat." He doesn't seem too terribly disappointed with this, because Spike is pretty awesome. Still, it'd be neat to bring friends over and have a huge tiger-sized kitty.

"Boys, come on," Heidi says, taking a few steps closer, putting one hand on Simon's shoulder, and one on Monty's. She offers an apologetic look to Claire. "Sorry, this one likes to talk," she says, giving the younger boy a pat. "Don't you guys want to go see the penguins or something?"

—-

Locking eyes with Heidi, Claire is conflicted, her inner debate coming across in her expression as an odd mix of apprehension and familiarity. "It's okay," she says, her mouth twitching in a swift smile again, this one more fleeting than before. "I don't mind." She begins to turn away, back to the tigers, when something stops her partway. She turns back again, returning her attention to Heidi (most likely the woman's back, by now) before the woman can get too far away with the boys. A few seconds tick by in hesitation, Claire holding in a breath as she frowns. Finally, she pushes away from the railing around the tiger enclosure and steps after Heidi, calling, "Mrs. Petrelli?"

—-

Usually finding that most people don't mind Monty's questioning, Heidi is nevertheless relieved when Claire offers a smile. "Thanks," is offered quietly, as she starts to shepherd the boys away from the tiger enclosure. There's a lot more to see… Every time they come to the zoo, they wind up only looking at a little bit of it, which would explain why they're here so often.

So, to the—

Heidi stops midstep, looking back over her shoulder. As her other foot comes down, she nearly stumbles, catching herself as gracefully as possible against the railing next to her. She shouldn't be /too/ surprised, considering people have told her they've seen her in the paper before, but considering the timing, it's… Slightly uncomfortable. A confused frown appears before she replies, "Yes?"

—-

Suddenly second-guessing her decision to call after the woman, Claire wishes desperately that she had the ability to turn back time. Maybe she would never have spoken to Monty, or she would have let Heidi walk away without saying a word. But Claire has no such ability, and Heidi is standing there, staring at her with a confused look. Sheepishly, the blonde teenager steps forward again, closing more distance without getting too near. "Can I talk to you for a minute? We don't have to go anywhere, I just wanted to talk to you." This is rapidly becoming one of the more awkward moments of her life, and Claire is hugging herself again, flicking furtive glances in either direction as if Nathan might appear in the crowd. "My name is Claire Bennet. I'm— " What? Her husband's illegitimate teenaged daughter? …yeah, she can't say that. She screws her face into a frown, shaking her head. "—nevermind. This was a mistake." Waving a hand dismissively, Claire begins to turn away.

—-

/Her name/ is Claire.

Heidi's pretty smart. She can put two and two together. It makes sense that this girl knows her name if it's who she thinks it might be, and by the awkwardness, well. Still, she expected a girl with dark hair and dark eyes for some reason, which doesn't fit Claire's description at all. Maybe she should have asked Nathan more about his daughter. At the time, though, Heidi wasn't exactly in a chatty mood.

"…Wait," she says.

She's going to go ahead and take the shot in the dark here, since the evidence is there. She might end up looking stupid when it's all done, but if she's wrong, it's not likely she'll see this girl again. "Are you Nathan's daughter?"

—-

The request for her to wait is enough to freeze Claire in her tracks, and she glances back over her shoulder, though she's reluctant to turn around again. Her heart is pounding, and she feels foolish for having said anything to the woman in the first place. It's only when Heidi poses her question that Claire turns back once more, something apologetic in her expression. "Yes," she says, her voice catching in her throat some. She ducks her head, swallowing hard, and takes several steps closer now. This is a vaguely sensitive subject, after all. "I didn't know if… you knew about me, or if I should say something."

—-

Simon and Monty are, by now, curiously looking around Heidi and up to Claire. They've been told about Claire now, so they know she exists, since Heidi felt it only fair that they know they have a sister. She's just not completely sure they understand. Especially Monty, who's still young (and naive) enough to believe that, because Claire is Nathan's Daughter, she's also Heidi's. Both boys are being quiet, though, apparently waiting for their mother to make the first move, so to speak.

Heidi actually manages to look slightly less uncomfortable. So, this is the girl who can heal, huh? Yeah, she just found out about /that/ a couple days ago, but she doesn't want to say it in front of her sons - not just yet. Smiling, hesitating for another moment, she holds out her hand. "I'm Heidi."

As she's discovered, she does feel some sort of… Protectiveness? Responsibility? For Claire, which becomes even more apparent to her now that they've met. There was never a question about whether or not she was jealous or angry. Hurt, yes. Confused, sure. But those were all feelings she directed at her husband. "Nathan told me about you. About a month ago." …Or thereabouts. "I had a totally different picture in my head." She still looks vaguely uncomfortable, but then again, she's not sure what the hell to say.

—-

"Yeah." Eloquent, Claire. She takes the woman's hand, however, with as warm a smile as she can manage given the circumstances. "I… take after my mother." Mindful of the boys, uncertain just how much they know, that last remark is spoken in a quiet tone. "I wanted to come by the house and meet you," she explains, suddenly apologetic, as if she ought to have met the woman long before, "but I thought it might be— " Inappropriate? Awkward? It's certainly that last one. "—weird to just show up without calling. I thought maybe while I was staying at the house…" She's reluctant to call it a mansion, even if she stayed there. Pausing for a few seconds, collecting her thoughts and sighing, she says breathlessly: "I wanted to meet you."

—-

She's a sweet girl, Heidi thinks to herself, noting with some irony that she's kind of glad she doesn't take after Nathan. Dark, serious. Broody. Simon does glance upward at Heidi after the comment about Claire taking after her mother. /He/ has figured it out to an extent, but Monty really has no idea what's going on — even if Heidi tried to go over this before.

She can't say that she /wanted/ to meet Claire before now, but now that she has, she's glad of it. Heidi's smile fades a little, still there, though more contemplative. She looks from the girl to her sons, then crouches down so she's a little lower than Simon, and about eye-to-eye with Monty. "You remember when I told you about your sister?" she asks. Both boys look blank. "Before daddy and mommy got married, your dad had a little girl. This is her. That's Claire." The smile returns in earnest when she meets the teen's eyes again. "Claire, these are your brothers. Simon and Monty."

It's difficult - hesitantly yet deliberately extending that family arm out toward Claire. Heidi knows she has every reason to be bothered by this, but the question is, /why would she?/ Logically, it makes no sense, even if this represents something painful.

—-

Taken aback by Heidi's acceptance of her presence here and, more importantly, her existence, Claire looks stunned and perplexed for a short few seconds after the woman introduces her to the boys. Shaking her head slightly, adopting a bright smile, the teenager turns her attention to Simon and Monty. She wasn't certain, before, whether these were the boys she had seen in photographs in the mansion so many months before. Now that she knows for certain, however, there's a certain measure of affection in her demeanor. It's restrained, but it's there. "Hi," she says, bending down with her hands on her knees to be nearer to the height of the boys. (Like she has far to go, being as short as she is.) "It's nice to meet you, boys." Without standing up straight again, she glances sidelong to Heidi with a grateful expression.

—-

Maybe it would have been months before they actually met face to face, or Heidi could have potentially never even brought it up. It defies reason to her - she can't really think of any solid excuse to be angry other than the fact that Claire exists, and that's just /stupid./ So, she tries to acclimate herself to the idea… Slowly, but she /is/ finding Nathan's daughter to be rather charming. Taking a step back, she allows the kids a little time to get to know each other.

"I thought you'd be younger," Monty says idly. "But hey, now you can come over and see Spike? Remember, she's my kitten."

Simon holds out his hand awkwardly. He's not sure if this is the right thing to do when meeting his long-lost half-sister, but he's seen Dad do it lots of times with all sorts of people, so it can't /hurt./ "H'lo, Claire. Hey, do you like Pokemon? I have all the cards."

—-

"If your mom says it's okay," Claire gently reminds Monty, but the little laugh that accompanies her words is genuine, and she grins at him. "But I'm pretty curious about this Russian Blue tiger kitten." When Simon holds his hand out, the teenager takes it without hesitation, doing her best to make it seem less awkward. It's about the most appropriate thing she could have thought to do, herself. "I don't know a lot about Pokemon," she admits, shrugging helplessly, "but I know some of them. Isn't there one that looks like a penguin?" Tucking her hands into the front pocket of her hoodie, she looks back up to Heidi, her gratitude lingering. "I think your mom wanted to see the penguins, didn't she?"

—-

"Of course it's okay," Heidi says quickly. Too quickly? She's not actually sure, since she's never been in a situation where she'd have to worry about something of this nature. Sometime during the time Simon and Monty are talking with Claire, Heidi managed to write her number down… Something she's been doing a lot lately given certain circumstances.

"Oh, yeah, the penguins!" Simon says, starting to run off down the length of the tiger habitat, in /exactly the wrong direction./ Monty follows after, though they stop about a dozen yards away to call back for Heidi to hurry up. Clearly they'll have to allow the knowledge that they have a sister to sink in a bit before they're really excited about it.

Before she runs off to catch them, Heidi holds out the piece of paper. "You can come by the house any time. I…" She pauses, looking back over her shoulder to make sure Simon and Monty haven't vanished. "Need to talk to you— "

"C'MON, MOM!"

" —Anyway. Take care, it was nice meeting you." As Heidi turns to catch up with her kids, she looks back over her shoulder. Yeah, she'd rather stick around, but the things she has to say can't be said around the boys. It's just too risky at this point. Maybe when they're older.

—-

Taking the paper with the phone number on it, Claire ducks her head in a swift nod. "Thanks. I'll call before I do." She tucks the paper into the pocket of her jeans, strangely aware of its presence despite it being nothing more than a single sheet, folded once. There is little time for pleasantries as Heidi is dragged away by her sons, so all Claire can say is a swift, "Y—you too!" With one hand raised in a wave, Claire stands there, stunned, watching as the little family (minus Nathan, granted) takes off. That went better than she anticipated. Eventually, she shakes her head and turns in the opposite direction, fishing her MP3 player from her bag before continuing along the path.

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