"You're sure she's all right?"
"No, I am not certain she's all right."
"Then why are you here."
"You called and said you needed my help."
"If you don't think she should be left alone."
"I don't know, but I don't think she'd appreciate knowing you put yourself in danger because of her."
"She'll always come first," Noah said simply.
"Are you staying?" her father asked.
"I suppose that's up to her."
"You don't think she wants you to?"
"I know that there's a part of her that believes the baby is the only reason I've been here this long."
"She might push you away."
"I'm prepared for that possibility."
"She's going to be emotional. Might say some cruel things."
"Yes," he said simply. She already had a time or two. He took it, said nothing back. There was no point in arguing with her. No point in replying. She was hurting in a way he would never understand.
They completed the job, though it took longer than Noah had anticipated. A couple of days turned into five. And so it had been close to a week since he'd last seen her when he returned to the apartment. He'd spoken to her every day.
There was one thing he hadn't told her over the phone, though. He wasn't sure what had made him hold back the information until he returned to her physically. He had to agree, getting her out of Midland for a while at least would probably be best. He wasn't sure she was going to go along with it, though.
He was surprised to find the apartment clean when he got home. Not that she wasn't a clean person, but she'd been so depressed over the loss of their child he wasn't exactly sure what he'd come home to.
He'd never really had a home before. Someone to be accountable to and who counted on him for more than just what his ability offered. It was a foreign feeling, being needed and wanted simply for being him.
And he was about to present her with an offer that would take her away from him and their home for a while.
Not only was the apartment clean, but she was as well. Dressed in clothes that indicated she may have left for a while even. He was grateful to see that was the case.
"Hi," she said from the couch.
"Hi yourself," he replied.
He shrugged. It was hard to answer the questions she asked about his business. Sometimes it was a good trip in his eyes, but others might not agree. It was all relative after all. And what he and her father were doing while good long-term was iffy at best probably when viewed through anyone else's eyes.
"Yes," he said simply. It was the only answer he could give really. "You look nice," he said.
"As opposed to usually, you mean?"
"Lately, I'd have to admit to thinking that, yes."
"I know you are. I have something that may help you."
"You do, huh?"
He chuckled lightly at the flirtatious tone in her voice. That had been missing for a while now.
"I think that's what got me into this mood to begin with."
"That was very harsh, Claire."
"I was teasing. I'm sorry. What's this something?"
"Well, it's part of some good news. I could have told you over the phone, but I saved it."
"Good news is always a bonus."
"They've found Peter."
Her eyes shot up then. Until that moment she hadn't really been paying attention, probably thinking he was making another silly attempt to get her out of her funk.
"That is good news. Is he?"
"He's alive and well. For the most part."
"What does that mean?"
"He can't remember anything."
"Oh," she said suspiciously.
"I had nothing to do with this bout of his memory loss."
"So, how does that help me?"
"The Petrelli's and your father thought that you might enjoy a break from Midland."
"Watching over Peter as he recuperates. He can't go to a regular hospital or rehabilitation center. Too many questions would be raised. All stemming from his absence never being reported."
"I still can't believe they got away with that."
"People see and hear what they want to."
"Where is he?"
"He's at his brother's home in the Hampton's for now. They've arranged for a very nice, private area where he can take the time he needs to acclimate to being back and hopefully regain his memories."
"And they thought it'd be a good idea to have me there?"
"He doesn't need a nurse or medical care per say. He just needs someone with him. We all know you were fond of each other. Perhaps being around you would stir his mind into regaining memories."
"So, I'm a tool."
"That and you're someone the family knows can be discreet."
"Would you come with me?"
"Alas, that would be the pitfall. No, it would just be the two of you."
"Oh," she said, nibbling at her lower lip as she did when she was thinking things over.
"Perhaps you don't think it's a pitfall?"
"I didn't say that. You could visit, though?"
"Yes, of course, if you desire it."
She frowned a little at that. "Do you desire it?"
"What kind of a question is that?"
"I don't know. It seems almost like you're shipping me off somewhere out of the way so you don't have to deal with me anymore."
"I've never approached anything about you as dealing with you, Claire."
"It's just awfully convenient."
"You! You get out of having to be all domestic with me without actually breaking up with me."
"I never claimed I wanted to do this breaking up."
"But you'd visit if I desire it, not you."
He sighed heavily. "This uncertainty runs both ways, Claire. You suspect somewhere in your mind that the only reason I'm with you was because of Aimee. No Aimee, no reason to be with you any longer."
"It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure it out, all right?"
"And what of me?"
"What of you?"
"What about my doubts? You asked me to live here because you didn't want to be and raise a baby alone. You didn't even request I live with you. Perhaps you don't want a relationship with me now that there is no Aimee holding us into one."
She was silent, but he could tell she was thinking on what he'd said.
"Your father is the only one who is aware I know of your whereabouts to present such an offer to you immediately. I assume Nathan and Angela believe your father will contact you via email."
"Your father and I thought some time away from here might be good for you."
"You want time away from me?"
He shook his head. "You're not hearing what I'm saying; you're hearing what you want to hear, Claire. And it's because of that I do think it'd be a good thing for you. I hate the idea of you being alone, but being with me right now doesn't seem to be helping."
"So you do want time away from me."
"I want you to get better. I want you to be whole again. You will of course mourn the loss of Aimee and no one expects you to just get over that loss. But I cannot be what you need if you can't even help yourself, Claire."
"And being with Peter will help."
"Perhaps you can help one another heal."
She turned away then, walking to the window. He noticed it was clean, as if she'd just washed it. Other things around the apartment had that look to them, too. So she must have been busy while he was away. That was good, but he still wasn't sure being here where Aimee was supposed to be was good for her. He wasn't even sure she would have seen the pregnancy through if he hadn't made an appearance into her life as he did.
"You're breaking up with me."
He could hear the tears in her voice, saw her shoulders shaking. He went to her, unable to resist comforting her.
"You said yourself I'm your first."
He sighed, kissing the top of her head. "I'm not breaking up with you. I'm offering you time to figure out for yourself if this is what you want. Being here with me clouds things. You're still so young, have so much life yet to live."
"That bothers you?"
He shrugged a little. "Not really, no, but I donít want it to bother you. I need to know, Claire, that we're together out of want on your part not out of some sense of obligation or need. Nothing is expected of you. Your father won't think less of you if you decide being with me is not what you want."
"Think less of you? No, of course not. Would I be disappointed? Yes, I would, but I'm not the one who had what she presumed was a one-night stand turn into something more serious."
"I'll do it."
"Okay," he said, unsure he was happy about her decision or not. He was used to letting things go, and he would do it to her as well if need be.
"I'm only doing it because Peter needs help and there's probably not many other people who have time on their hands as I do. That was the reasoning, right? Everyone else has important work to do except me."
"More or less," he agreed.
"Are you going to stay here?"
"I'd planned on it."
"And you'll visit."
"Yes," he said.
"That was the answer you should have given to begin with, you know," she said turning in his arms to face him.
"I will not be dishonest with you, Claire. And I won't have doubt clouding our relationship. I'm not going to force myself on you or into your life."
"I know. You didn't."
"No. I didn't have to agree to your moving in here. I didn't have to tell you about Aimee at all."
"I would have been very hurt had you not."
"Yeah, I thought of that, too. Of my dad telling you I was pregnant and you thinking that I'd hooked up with someone else after you."
"You would have had every right to do so."
She reached up, standing on the tips of her toes and kissed him. "No, I wouldn't have."
"Well, we weren't committed."
"I guess I'm not a one-night stand kind of girl because once I left your room I knew I couldn't just start seeing someone else."
"That is good to know."
She grazed his lips with her thumb, tracing the outline of the smirk that he currently wore.
"You know what else is good to know?"
"The doctor says I'm fine."
"That is good news for certain." He hadn't realized there was a doubt as to whether she was fine or not.
She laughed a little. "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"
"I guess not."
She dropped her hand in his and started toward their room. He followed, helpless to do anything else where she was concerned. She walked to his side of the bed and opened the nightstand drawer he had there. Until now the drawer had remained empty aside from whatever book he was currently reading.
His eyes widened a little at the sight of more than just a few condoms taking up space in there now.
"I see," he said.
"Obviously she knows I didn't intend on getting pregnant and I told her I couldn't take the pill."
"I am guessing it wouldn't work on me. I certainly don't want to take the chance. Do you?"
"Well, when you're done with college and a baby wouldn't be viewed as a hardship or a mistake it might be worth finding out if such a form of birth control worked."
"Oh right, sure, but not now. I really don't want to go through that again right away. Especially if there was nothing wrong but me and my ability."
"There is someone with your ability who has had children."
"Really?" she asked, sounding so hopeful. "I'd like to meet her someday."
"It isn't a she."
"Well, that may not mean I can, but at least it's better than knowing someone like me who never had kids."
"Are you sure?" he asked, taking one of the condoms out of the drawer. "I don't want you feeling pressured."
"I don't. You didn't bring it up, I did. And we don't have to. I just wanted you to know that I was cleared."
He chuckled softly. "With your ability you were probably clear long before now."
"Well, yeah, but I couldn't tell the doctor that. So I waited the obligatory six weeks and went to see him to be sure."
"And he didn't find anything about you unusual?"
"He didn't say anything, no. What's he going to say? How'd you get pregnant and remain a virgin?" She shrugged. "I don't know what else to do."
"Next time, take me with you I can block your ability for that little while."
"I hadn't thought of that. And what if you're not around next time?"
"I'm not going to disappear from your life, Claire. Whatever may happen in the future between us, I will always be here for you if you need me."
"Yeah, but talk about embarrassing. You'd have to go into the room with me, right?"
He shrugged. "Probably standing outside the door would be enough. I've never experimented with my ability to that precise of a degree."
"Well, I'll keep it in mind for next time. I have to admit, I hope it's a very, very long time from now."
He dropped the condom, sliding his hand to her face, placing a finger under her chin. "Don't let the loss of Aimee prevent you from trying for more if you want more, Claire. I understand if the idea of losing more upsets you and makes you hesitant to try, but we saw with our own eyes that she was normal at least outwardly. That would point to something being wrong, not your ability. As I said, if it's me you're going through it with, adoption is always an option."
She hugged him tight, resting her head against him. "You know just what to say."
She chuckled. "When do I leave?"
"Trying to get rid of me already?"
"No, just wondering. It sounds like they want him out of sight pretty soon."
"As soon as you're willing to leave, I imagine."
"Will you take me to the airport?"
"You know I will."
"Thank you," she said, lifting her head away from him a little.
"If you don't want to go."
"No, Peter needs help and as much as I hate to acknowledge it, I'm the expendable one. So, I'll go and play nursemaid." She frowned then.
"He's not going to know who I am. The first time we met he didn't know me, but he at least knew I was who he had to save. I don't even get that this time."
"No one said this was going to be easy, Claire. You'll have to sit and watch someone you care about struggle to remember every little thing."
"And there's nothing you can do to help him?"
"I don't know. You can take memories. You can't put them back?"
"I wish I could, but no."
She drew away from him then and he watched her push the covers back on the bed. She picked up the packet he'd dropped and set it in the palm of his hand.
"I love you, you know. A few weeks or months with Peter aren't going to change that."
"I appreciate you saying so, and you know how I feel for you."
"I do," she said, but he could tell she wished he'd actually say it. He just couldn't do it until he knew for certain where they were. Perhaps his inability to say those words would be their undoing and he'd laugh at himself if it was the case.
He had doubts, though. He knew the feelings she'd had for Peter were more than friendly before she found out he was her uncle. He was sending her where she'd be alone night and day with a man who did not know she was his niece.
"You look so serious," she said.
"I put a condom in your hand and you have to think."
"Not about that," he said quickly.
"Are you sure?"
She thought he didn't want her any longer. They hadn't been intimate in any capacity in so long beyond hugging and sharing a bed.
"Of course I'm sure."
"If you don't want to."
"Claire, just moments ago you thought I was breaking up with you. Do you want to? Or is this you thinking it will somehow keep us together? Just because the doctor cleared you physically doesn't mean that mentally you're ready. I don't expect you to instantly have sex with me again because your doctor said you could."
He set the condom in the drawer and shut it, sitting on the bed near her.
"I'm not men, Claire. I'm me. I love being with you but if you're not ready I'm not going to force you."
"I know. I just thought and especially if I'm going away."
"What's that saying I've heard? Good things come to those who wait. I have no doubt when you're ready it will be very good and well worth the wait. I donít want the ghost of our child haunting you while I make love to you."
She blushed then, tilting her head lower to try and hide it so she must have known she was blushing badly.
"You'll take care of her while I'm gone."
"Between your father and I, she will be looked after properly."
"Of course," he said without hesitation.
"Okay," she said, leaning against him once more.
He maneuvered them to the bed so he could hold her more comfortably, settling her against him the way she liked to lay when they were together like this. Lately, it had always been like this. He hadn't been willing to initiate even the minimal touch that could be construed as suggestive for fear she would reject him or get upset.
"I'm glad you're home," she said.
"Me, too. And it will remain our home. You're only away temporarily, it's not forever."
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