2007-11-25: The Closest

Warning: contains Heroes Season 3 Material

Starring:

Claire_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: Claire arrives on Nathan's doorstep after Sylar's final attack.

Date It Happened: November 25th, 2007

The Closest


The Petrelli Mansion

It's got to be well-past midnight at this point. Claire wouldn't know, her beautiful new iPhone seems to be missing its battery, and she really didn't have the state of mind to find it. She tried. She did. But when she left a certain apartment building, she was without it. No change for a payphone. Didn't think to call collect.

And then she started walking. There's a great thing about New York; nobody really wants to look your way if there's trouble. That's how it is that a seventeen year old blonde girl, caked in blood, didn't even get stopped as she strolled along in a daze. And then it was dark, and no one could see the blood anyway. She avoided the trains, avoided the cabs. It wasn't until now, walking up the sidewalk to her biological father's house, that she really realized where she was going. It was the closest; the rest was autodrive.

When she gets to the door, she doesn't even pause — proof enough that she is so beyond the point of 'not-okay' — as she lifts her hand and then rings the doorbell. That task done, her hand just slowly goes back to her side. Please be home, Nathan. Please?

There's not a sound, not even the scrabbling foot steps of dogs, let alone the sounds of humans. Likely, they're all in bed by now, and so it takes a while. But finally, the muffled sounds of foot steps as someone draws nearer, and the door's locks scrape open, the door swinging to cast muted manmade light onto the girl, Nathan temporarily silhouetted and shadowed by it. "Claire?" he says, with a sleep-rasped voice, but he doesn't hesitate - just opens the outside door as well as steps aside for her to come in. She didn't call ahead before, it shouldn't be a burden now, but oddly enough, the hour of night is what makes him instantly welcome her. What's the saying? No rest for the wicked?

He doesn't seem to notice the blood quite yet, and it's rather clear he's just rolled out of bed, although he threw on some clothes - rumpled jeans, a fresh sweater over an undershirt, feet bare against the cold foyer floor. As for his sickness, he looks even more worse off than when Claire saw him last, but that's day to day. It's normal right now. What isn't are the dark red shadows on Claire's body that Nathan is barely getting a chance to take in.

Black boots with their sensible heels. Black pants. Black leather coat. Red turtleneck. Messenger bag. She would look like a perfectly normal kid out past curfew if her hair wasn't matted against her face. If there wasn't a tell-tale line across her forehead as a sign to those who know it. If Nathan wasn't so groggy, he might notice, but that's not his fault.

Claire steps inside the house, striding into the foyer… and then she realizes that she didn't get any further in her plan than this. Her forehead furrows, and then her eyes begin sliding from side to side as she tries to figure out what she's supposed to do now that she's woken him up and possibly Heidi and the kids. …Crap. Turning her head back to Nathan slowly to look at him, that confusion is all the more apparent as her eyes narrow. "I'm… sorry," she offers after that first moment looking at him. "You were the closest."

Gently does it, Nathan closes the doors behind her, with the intent not to alert anyone else in the house. Then, rubbing his face once with his hands, he turns back to her, brow furrowing in some irritation now that he's a little more awake, alert— then going still, gaze flicking up from her eyes to the line of red across her forehead. Hard to tell immediately if it's just blood or if it's injury. There's a tense moment of silence as very important synapses fire, make connections, and he moves closer, hands going out to touch her arms and bending his knees enough to meet her gaze more levelly. "Are you okay?" he says, a hand coming up to gently push aside her hair, gaze still on the injury, trying to see if flesh is still torn - but no, healed over.

Claire locks gazes with her father and that confusion morphs — almost imperceptibly back — to that deep, to-the-core numb that seems to have penetrated her in its entirety. She has to think about it. Whether to tell him the truth. Whether to gloss over everything with a lie because it seems that he's still sick. In the end, however, she realizes that there is no lie grand enough that could even begin to paint this a sunshiney hue of happy.

Her lips set into a tight line as she slowly shakes her head, wanting to cry and not wanting to cry at the same time and instead falling, again, onto the dry-eyed center between those two lines. No. No, she's not okay. And she doesn't know what anyone — least of all her still-sick biological father — can do about it.

Nathan's hand draws away, letting bloodied blonde locks fall back into place, when she answers him wordlessly. He might not know her as well as he should, but he can recognise this. The act of holding it together through sheer willpower. "Come on," he says, gently, back straightening and hand shifting to touch her shoulder, then moving to take her messenger bag from her, to set it aside by the door along with the other coats that hang there. "Let's get you cleaned up." First move. No sense in making her stand there covered in blood, and he's a practical man. Start with picking up the visible pieces and oh god, he really hopes that whoever (and he knows whoever) drew that line across his daughter's forehead didn't follow her here only to rip through the rest of his family. With a glance of uncertainty towards the closed door, he starts to lead Claire upstairs, towards the nearest bathroom, clearing his throat to ward off the everpresent itch of coughing.

Nathan is taking control of the situation, and that's comforting. Claire doesn't fight handing off her sticky messenger bag, or in being led off to the bathroom. Instead, she slips inside the small tiled room and just turns on the hot water to wait for it to warm up. She's not going to make him clean her up. She just needed somewhere safe to go. That's her story, and she's sticking to it. "You're still sick," she offers, using statement of apparent fact as an attempt at starting conversation.

Once she's lead there, Nathan only lingers in the doorway, making no move to fuss over her - in fact, he's prepared to wait in the hallway, but when she strikes up conversation, he merely leans against the doorframe, arms wrapping around himself and observing the tiles. "Yeah," he confirms, shortly. Under the harsher lights of the bathroom, the symptoms of paleness and fever seem only highlighted, though it doesn't do Claire many favours either as he looks back up at her, gaze lingering on the evidences of injury and struggle. "Getting used to it by now. If you need a place to stay for the night, you're more than welcome to stay here, Claire. Do you want me to call anyone for you?"

The cold water starts to warm while Claire's hands are under it, but then she turns to look to Nathan. Man, they are such a wrecked pair. The corner of her mouth twitches at the abrubt start and failure of a smile to mark her appreciation of the sentiment. She takes her time thinking about it, her head tilting. "I don't know. Mom and Dad? They're probably worried. Are… Are Heidi and the kids still okay?"

Meanwhile, the water starts to steam as it pours over her hands, reddening the skin to brighter and brighter hues as she still rubs them together to clean blood.

Nathan leans enough to glance down the hallway, shut bedroom doors barely visible, sort of an instinctive reaction to her question. "They're not sick, if that's what you mean," Nathan says, looking back at her, down towards her hands - body stiffening when he sees the hot water mar her skin harshly. "Hey, careful," he says, barely even registering the fact that she's not reacting to it, why she wouldn't, but still, he steps forward to shut off the faucet, yet another instinct, letting cold water overtake the hot.

When Nathan slips in front of her to get to the faucet, Claire is confused. She's even more confused by the bright red that's covering her hands. Bright red that's gone after a few moments under the cold water. And then her head slowly, ever so slowly, tilts to one side, and her blue eyes narrow. There's something processing in that brain of hers.

"I'm sorry. I— I didn't feel it." Her breath catches, and then she looks up to Nathan, clearly baffled. You're an adult and smart. Explain this.

This is better territory for Peter, Noah, hell, most people in the know about these kinds of things than Nathan. But he's the only other person here, and he's her father for god's sake, and so he turns back to her, taking her hands in his so he can study them. A moment ticks by, before he's turning back towards the sink, letting the water run and picking up a wash cloth. Letting it soak, he squeezes out the excess water, and sets about gently wiping away the dried blood across Claire's forehead, hesitating to give her a look like 'may I?' before proceeding. "That's not part of your ability, is it?" he confirms, not really asking. "What happened, Claire?"

There's a thousand reasons why it should have been anybody but Nathan to have to deal with this. The fact that his wife and 'real' kids are sleeping down the hall happen to be just one of the larger ones. In his hands, however, he can watch as her hands finish restoring the last of the damage done, leaving nothing but pale, flawless, porcelainesque skin. When he takes that cloth in hand, however, there's only a moment where she flinches back. In the end, however, she clenches her eyes tightly shut and lets him work and scrub away, trying to figure out how to explain this. 'Nothing' is not going to work here. Thus, she falls back on that dreaded staple of adolescent excuses: "I don't know."

No, she decides only a breath later, she risked so much for him just by coming here. She risked a scandal, and he didn't even hesitate letting her in. Claire owes him more than that. She opens her eyes and then furrows her forehead again. She bites her lip, and then releases it to talk. "Sylar." As if there was any doubt. That's a little better, at least, tho'.

Of course it was. Nathan doesn't completely react to the name, not in visible ways, although she might notice the tenseness now dictating his movements, the way his jaw clenches, expression hardens some as he focuses on the task of cleaning her face of blood. When he's done, the wash cloth is tossed towards the sink, where it smears pink bloodied water along the porcelain, but that can be taken care of. "Then you got away just in time," he says. Or rather, hopes. Something about this doesn't smack of a near death experience quite the way one would think about it.

Breathe. Breathe. At her sides, Claire's fingers are twitching nervously. It's a slight thing, barely worth the noting. The words don't come to explain right away, and so she starts with another slow, wordless shake of her head once he moves the cloth away. No. She heaves another breath, and then the quiet, husky confession comes. "He got exactly what he wanted." Because she brought it right to his doorstep.

And she lived through it. God knows what Sylar can live through now. That's where Nathan's mind leaps to, the next time Peter goes hunting for him, going up against something that can't die just like— just like the girl standing in the room whom his attention is swerved back to, and he attempts to rein back the horror he feels if only for her benefit. "I'm sorry," he hears himself offer, reaching back to shut off the sound of running water. "You're— you're gonna be okay now, at least he'll— leave you alone." Hollow reassurance seeing as the damage is done, and Nathan leans heavily back against the sink. "It's not your fault," he finally offers.

Not her fault. Nathan's words of reassurance cut into her like a dagger. Here he is, being so… so much like what she could have wanted, and it's all based on this misperception. He'll never forgive her if he finds out what sort of risk she's put the entire world in, just because she couldn't do what her Dad and Peter told her to do. To lay low. To hide.

Claire doesn't look reassured, but she does fake a tiny, barely heartened smile — if only for his benefit. If he ever finds out, he's never going to talk to her again. Ever. Self-doubt and guilt only fuel this belief, and she wraps herself in a self-hug. What comes out next is neither admitting or denying his statement as truth. It's a quiet, non-committal "Yeah."

"It's not," Nathan insists, completely oblivious to the way his words have the opposite effect of what he's attempting. But tense silence falls, punctuated by the barely audible sounds of the house around them, water in the pipes, the sound of rain starting to fall outside, and Nathan steps forward to place his hands on her shoulders again, trying to summon up what to say but all he can imagine is what the after-effects of this will be. "You need to get some rest, it's late," Nathan says, because he can fix the immediate situation, at least. "Least until I call your parents and Noah kicks the doors down tryna get to you."

Claire looks up at Nathan from that place she's found to stare at on the floor — down and to the side — as he goes back to being reassuring. And, for the first time since she got here, her head nods up and down. "Okay," she finally allows with another weak effort to smile gratefully, shrugging her shoulders and waiting until he's out of the doorway before she actually starts moving towards wherever he leads her. Surprisingly enough, guilt, horror, and oppressive feelings of gloom and doom aside, this may have been one of their better conversations. …That's probably not saying much.

It's probably the fact that this is one of their better conversations that worries Nathan the most. He'd prefer for her to snap at him and generally be a confusing teenage girl than a seemingly hollowed out shell-like version of that. Reminds him too much of the shock people go through after something incredibly bad has happened, and Nathan's seen enough of that in his life to know it. He leads her out of the bathroom, switching off the light for her and generally taking his position as man of the house and directing her through to one of the guest bedrooms. He opens his mouth to say that he can probably find some things of Heidi's or Angela's that she can borrow for tonight, but instead, what comes out is, "Do you want to talk about it?"

It's a question that catches Claire off-guard. Of all the things that could come out of his mouth, the one that might mean that she gushes feelings and the like in response is the last one that she expected. Her eyes look at him for a moment, softening just long enough to show that she is genuinely considering the idea. Tonight, ultimately, Nathan is spared that particular brand of horror. Instead, she opts to protect her unforgivable truth. All she can do after that is hope that Noah doesn't ruin it for her by blabbing that she stole his stuff. "No." And that's when she looks back down. It's a few more paces before she finally manages to whisper, "I just… I can't right now. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Nathan's quick to assure, and doesn't feel like a better person for the twist of relief he feels when she declines the offer. Luckily for both them, he masks it well. Stretching an arm over her, he pushes open the guest room door, the same one Heidi had stayed in all those months ago when she couldn't be in the same room. As it stands now, it's completely clean, just sparse. His other hand comes up to shield the mild coughing fit that delays his next words, the sound muffled and quiet despite the way his body shudders along with the symptoms. When it's done, he nods towards the room. "All yours. I can find a change of clothes. Need anything else? Glass of water or…" Because glasses of water, apparently, is what you offer anyone for any trauma. Aside from drowning.

"No," Claire repeats for what feels like the hundreth time tonight, reaching to open the door. She lets it swing open and actually steps forward as though she'd simply pass through it and be done for the evening. Instead, she pauses partway through and looks towards Nathan once more. She doesn't bother with the fake smiles anymore; they both know she doesn't mean it. A lack of a smile, however, does not make the underlying sentiment of the words any less sincere. "Thank you."

Nathan hands slide into his pockets, and he nods once to her thanks. As if it were approval. In a way, it is, but he's not sure why he's looking for it. "Just yell if you change your mind," he says. Whether he means the glass of water, or the need to talk about it despite his relief when she'd said no, he tosses it out there, and with a rueful, mirthless smile, he turns to move back down the hallway at a slow meander. Then, his pace kicks up into something of more authority. Time to make phonecalls, arrangements. He is, at least, good at those.

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