Word Count: 2,998
She was all out of tears. She'd sat clutching what was left of her shirt to her for what seemed like forever. Since The Haitian had rescued her, she'd dreamt of seeing a sunrise, just not this way. Her father, being overprotective hadn't let her out of his sight until they'd gotten to California.
And then there'd been tutors, followed by classes, and curfews. She understood the need for curfews, the reason for her dad staying awake with lame excuses until she got home each night. He was worried and felt responsible for what happened to her.
She'd been keeping her end of the bargain with The Haitian, telling her father the following day the psychiatrist she was seeing wasn't working. That was three months ago now, and finally this month she started seeing one that finally got it. Got her. She was relieved tremendously. She'd thought for a while that she was truly crazy. Why else would she be unable to find a shrink she could talk to?
She was far from better, but finally talking about things was allowing her to sleep a night or two without waking up from a nightmare. Almost six months she'd been home. There were times it seemed like a lifetime ago. Other times it seemed like it was not even an hour ago.
Tonight was one of those times.
She'd been keeping to her other bargain with The Haitian, too. She hadn't been dating around. She hadn't even been dating. He must have been very thorough in erasing memories, because from what she could tell her reputation was intact. And the boys she'd gone out with those first couple of weeks didn't seem to pay her more attention than any other girl.
So, when her biology lab class partner asked her on a date she'd accepted. Therapy was going well, she'd been sleeping better, and she was determined to have a real date. Not the types she'd had at the beginning. Things hadn't gone exactly the way she'd planned.
She laughed, wiping under her eyes with the pads of her fingers. She was starting to get cold. Feel the cold was more accurate. She'd probably been cold for a while now.
"When do they ever go as planned?"
She stared at her cell phone. Her father was probably beyond worried sick at this point. If he had the power to he'd have the Army out looking for her. He didn't have that kind of power. She should call and tell him she was okay.
Her thumb kept scrolling through her contact list, though, passing by Dad, Lyle and Mom to The Haitian. She didn't know why she felt safe with him. He saved her. She got that. He hadn't done it on his own, though. He was just the instrument her father had sent because his ability would help him get her out of there.
She hit SEND, never having used the number he'd given her before now. She hadn't wanted to, because she did wish to be normal again without his help. Well, the help of him erasing her memories anyway. There wasn't one day of her three years there she'd want to relive or do over. She'd survived, though. That had to count for something.
Sitting here now, she wasn't so sure what. And she knew he was going to be mad at her. He was going to think she was doing it again. She really wasn't, hopefully he'd believe her since she'd been honest with him before.
'Hello,' he said, sounding as if she'd woken him up. She'd never seen him actually sleeping. Their few days together he'd slept in chairs as if keeping guard over her. He probably was in a way, fearful something would happen to her on his watch.
"This is Claire," she said, clearing her throat softly. "Claire Bennet."
'Is everything all right?'
"I need you to pick me up."
'Where are you?'
"That's the thing, I'm not real sure."
'I'm not that good, Claire.'
She smiled slightly at that. "I can give you the name of the park I'm at."
'A park? It's a little…'
"Please don't. Not now."
'All right,' he said, sounding more awake. 'Tell me the name of the park.'
'I will be there shortly.' He paused. 'I ask again, are you all right?'
"I guess," she said with a shrug he obviously couldn't see.
They disconnected after that and all she could do was sit and wait for him. She had no idea where he was, where he lived. She knew he spent time at her house. She saw him more than she wanted to, a constant reminder of what he'd seen. And what she'd tried to do to him. It had been automatic, which he seemed to know. And that didn't seem to insult him, which was good.
Eventually, she heard a car pull up, saw the light from headlights and knew he was there. She stood then, legs shaky from sitting for so long. She looked a mess. She'd been sitting by the water for hours now so her hair was all sorts of crazy. Her shirt was ripped. At least her jeans were whole. She'd look a lot worse if she didn't heal, so she was thankful for that. She wondered if he'd grow tired of rescuing her. Had he given her his phone number as a courtesy with no thought that she'd really use it?
"Are you hurt?"
She glared at him.
"Stupid question. So, I'll ask again, what happened?"
"I went out on a date."
It was his turn to glare.
"Not that type of date. A real date. He's my partner in biology lab. He asked me out and I thought I was ready for a date. I've found a counselor that actually seems to be working, so I thought I'd try."
"And? Did something…"
"No! I jumped out of his car when he kept driving and driving. I don't doubt people have parties out in the middle of nowhere here. They did in Texas, but I didn't feel like taking any chances. I was just trying to be a normal girl."
"What happened to your shirt?" he asked.
"I rolled down a hill and it caught on something. A few somethings I guess."
"You should have told me you needed a new one. I have nothing to offer you."
"You've seen me in less."
"That is not the point."
Now that he was here and she knew she was safe, she let herself realize how stupid she'd been. She should have known better than go driving with someone. It was one of the reasons until tonight she always met people places, driving herself.
She'd jumped out of a moving car, knowing she'd survive the fall. It was the first time she used knowing she could heal to her advantage. She hadn't thought about that until now.
She stepped into his arms, wrapping hers around him so he didn't have much choice but to do the same. She laughed, though it sounded more like a sob to her and rested her head against his chest.
"Thank you for coming," she said softly.
"You did the right thing."
"I don't know how I'll face him in lab again. I mean, if he really was taking me to a party he'll think I'm a freak."
"I can take care of that."
"I can't depend on you to rescue me for the rest of my life."
She didn't have an answer to that. She just couldn't. It was that simple. She'd eventually have to learn to fend for herself and make better choices.
"You're not always going to be around."
"I will be around until I'm no longer needed."
"By my father?"
"Him, too, but I do not need to stay here for my work with him."
"So, you're here for me?"
"Yes, we have an agreement. Until I'm certain you do not require me to fulfill my end of it I will be nearby."
"When you do his memories," she lifted her head from his chest then to look at him.
"Can you tell me if he meant to hurt me?"
"I should be able to, yes."
"I'd like to know. I really thought he was okay." She shook her head, trying to stop from crying again. She'd already done that enough tonight. "I thought I was okay, making a decent decision."
"And going to a party with him?"
"I wasn't going to drink or do anything. I swear," she added when he didn't look like he believed her entirely. "I thought I could do it. Make a decent choice."
"Perhaps you did. I will see."
"Thank you." She laughed, wiping the tears on her cheeks on the front of his shirt. "I keep saying that to you."
"Have you called your father?"
"Because I didn't want him to freak out or worry."
He sighed heavily.
"I know it's his job to do that, but I just thought you were safer."
"I'm not sure I enjoy you having that view of me."
He shrugged. "I do not know. I am not really an overly good man."
"But you saved me. And you called the police when I asked you to. And you erased those guys memories. And are here today."
"You seem to be a weakness for me."
"Me? Or my father?"
"You. I do not make it a habit of randomly removing memories of boys people have gone out on dates with. Or of even talking to people for that matter."
That affected her way more than it probably should have. She liked that thought, though. That there was something about her he liked. Despite where and how he'd found her, what she'd looked like that night, knowing how she'd been acting once they'd moved to California, and might have overreacted tonight while out on a date.
He shrugged. "I do not know, ever since I was a boy I have not spoken to very many."
"Among the few, though I didn't for a very long time to him either."
"What do you do for him?"
"Whatever he needs me to."
"That doesn't tell me much."
"There's not much to tell. We deal with specials. People like you and me, those with abilities."
"There are more of us?"
"Yes, there are many."
"You didn't think it was just us?"
"Well, how would I know?"
"Don't laugh at me."
"I am sorry."
"I didn't even know what was wrong with me until you found me."
"There is nothing wrong with you," he whispered.
Despite the soft tone, a seriousness to it told her he didn't like hearing her say that. She drew away from him a little so she could look at him. She'd never touched him before. Well, the first night in the hotel room she had, but not since then. And that was different. So, she wasn't sure why he'd let her for so long now, not that she was complaining. Her dad hugged her, but it wasn't the same. It was as if he was reassuring himself she was still there.
"I know that."
Her eyes widened a little when he reached for her, giving an instinctive flinch when his hand got close to her face. Except he didn't hit, slap her, or pull her hair. He just set it there at her cheek. She trembled a little, and it wasn't because she was cold. It was warm and soothing against her cheek, smooth but not completely smooth. He wasn't afraid to use his hands.
"Good," he whispered. "I'm sorry."
"I know better."
She frowned. "Huh?"
Was he making sense to himself? He sure wasn't to her. He used his fingertips to brush aside some of her hair, drawing her tighter against him with his other arm. She fought not to panic. He had done nothing to indicate he was going to hurt her, and he was so gentle about it.
And then for the next minute or two, time simply stopped for her as she was on the receiving end of her first ever kiss. She knew enough to realize he was being kind and not overly pushy or doing anything that might frighten her. His lips were simply pressed against hers, his thumb grazing her cheek moved more than his mouth did. And that was okay with her. She'd seen people make out and she wasn't sure she was ready for anything like that. He seemed to understand that.
"For that," he whispered, drawing away. "I should not."
"Because of what you went through."
"No one was ever nice to me like that."
"I'm not sure kissing you right now is nice."
"Gentle might be a better word."
"For that I am sorry."
He stepped away from her, taking his arms and warmth with him. Her eyes widened when she saw he had a phone in his hand.
"I must call your father to tell him I'm with you and that you are all right."
She could imagine how that conversation was going to go. And judging by his end of it she was pretty accurate. She didn't listen too closely, still going over the kiss in her mind. What did it mean? If she knew anything about how guys worked she might know, but until now she hadn't made much effort at getting to know anything about them.
"He is not happy."
"He wants you home."
"I figured as much," she said, turning her back to him. The sun coming up looked so pretty with the water right here. "I didn't realize it was so late."
"Some might say early."
She glanced at him over her shoulder. "Are things going to be weird between us now?"
"Any weirder than they usually are? I would hope not."
"I kind of like knowing you're there for me."
"That would not change because I kissed you."
"And I am saying it will not."
"Let's get you home."
"I want to see the sun come up."
"You can see that from my car."
"It's not the same. I haven't seen a sunrise in years. There were times I didn't know if it was day or night."
"You must realize I cannot say no if you bring up your time away."
"No, but I was hoping it might convince you."
She smiled. "Are you still going to visit my lab partner?"
"I have to, if for no other reason than he will wonder why you are unscathed after jumping from a moving vehicle."
"Oh yeah, there is that."
"I've never done anything like that before."
"It is all right to use knowing you have such an ability to your advantage. We just don't want you broadcasting it."
"Just in case you decide that dating is too boring."
"Does it bother you?"
"What I've done?"
"Bother may be too strong of a word. I know you deserve much better than what those you have dated can give you."
"And you think you can give it to me?"
"I did not make such a claim."
"No, but I don't think you go around kissing people either."
"You know nothing about me."
"I don't have to. The way you touched me told me a lot."
"And it does not bother you? Knowing I'm the one who found you? Knowing that I saw you?"
"Of course it bothers me. It would bother me whoever you were. I hate that anyone had to see me like that, rescue me. That I tried to," she shrugged. "Well, anyway. But you don't have to treat me like I'm going to break either."
"I worry sometimes you just might do that."
"What is it you're asking of me, Claire?"
"I just want to be normal. Do what normal people do. I've never been kissed before."
His eyes widened.
"No, kissing wasn't really on their minds and it wasn't something we ever did there. It seems men can get kissing anywhere. It's the other things they have to go to places like that for."
"I think I would take the sincerity of your kiss over most anything else."
She smiled slightly. "You say stuff like that and it really makes me wonder what kind of man you are."
"I don't know. You stopped me that night."
"Of course I did."
"Some might not have."
"I'm not some."
"That's my point! You kissed me. And it certainly wasn't like you were shoving your tongue into my mouth or anything. It was nice and gentle and sweet, but you apologize."
"I explained my reasoning."
"For the apology, but not for why you kissed me."
"I cannot deny an attraction to you; I just do not enjoy knowing that it is there."
"Because I'm damaged."
"Because you are still healing."
"So, the shrink declares me all better and suddenly I'm healed enough for you?"
"That is assuming you are receptive to my attraction."
"I didn't stop you from kissing me."
"I guess not."
"Can I tell you something else I've never done?"
"I'm not sure I want to know," he said with a soft laugh.
"Very funny. There's actually quite a lot," she said with a smile. "I've never held someone's hand."
They were quiet for a minute or two after that. Should she not have said that? He held his hand out to her palm up then and she placed hers over his. She jerked her hand a little when their palms met but let hers settle against his. He laced his fingers through hers and she did the same. The sun was high enough now that she could actually see pretty clearly.
"Just a little while longer."
"I know," she said softly.
Info. on icons used for background:
The non-illustrated icon is courtesy of lay-of-luthien @ LJ. She's got some nice work, and did this and 4 others very quickly! The illustrated icon is courtesy of: julietbunny who gave me this in addition to some other great goodies for the Heroes_Holidays Spring Hiatus project.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com