Word Count: 1,908
He'd been fired.
Well, no, he'd been given a choice. Resign with a good reference from Senator Nathan Petrelli. Stay, be fired, and risk criminal charges being pressed for statutory rape. (That was her father's idea.)
She couldn't exactly blame him for making the choice he had. She liked to think they could have gotten through it if he could have gotten past the age thing. She wasn't sure that would ever happen though, and she knew being fired and charges being brought against him would ruin any possibility for a legitimate future for him. And she knew how badly he wanted that.
So, she'd encouraged him to resign, knowing she'd probably never see him again. It had hurt, though probably not as badly as having him there every day with her heart still broken. She discovered that night, with the door open and Nathan not too far away (out of sight, but definitely not out of earshot) that there were just some things her ability couldn't stop from hurting. Couldn't heal in the blink of an eye.
She'd been tempted to tell him she loved him, but didn't not knowing what purpose it would serve. The only thing she could see it doing was making it more difficult for him to move on. Her, too, for that matter, because it would be out there and she'd hold onto hope that maybe he loved her, too, and would wait for her to one day find him again. Or that those words would make him stop being mad at her, forgive her, and when she was eighteen.
And that thought process was hurtful, too.
That was sadly pathetic so she'd said goodbye. Nathan had given them enough privacy she hugged him, kissed him so intensely she thought they'd combust right there and then from the ferociousness of it. And he had kissed her back. So, no matter what he said he felt, she had to believe he at least cared for her more than just sex.
And then he was gone. Car packed, apartment empty of anything that had made it distinctly Taylor's.
"I'm sorry," Nathan had said softly as she stared at the apartment bereft.
She didn't respond, because at that moment nothing good would have come from her mouth. She still had to live with Nathan so she didn't want to alienate him. Oddly, he wasn't as upset about her relationship with Taylor as her dad had been. He'd hated being duped and Claire thought that might have hurt him more, the fact she'd hidden it from him so blatantly, than finding out she'd been carrying on with his bodyguard.
She'd made sure the reference letter was written, that Nathan wouldn't go back on his part of the deal. There were things Taylor could do now; positions open to him with this job as a reference. Though she suspected he'd put all of his newfound free time into the boxing ring.
And life had gone on. It didn't shatter. It didn't stop rotating on its axis. It only felt that way to Claire. She immersed herself in her schoolwork, raising her decent B average into a low A average through sheer hard work the last couple of months.
Her school year was done and she, too, now was packing to see her family in California. Her father at first had insisted she move to California right there and then, not trusting Claire to disregard the rules imposed and seeing Taylor anyway. She hadn't, not wanting to risk it. For his sake. Not that he'd called or indicated he wanted to see her again. Nathan had convinced Noah that there was no sense removing her so deep into the school year, especially since the school she was attending was one of the best in the country. Any school she'd transfer to would be behind Claire and she'd just be bored.
She'd finished out the year and now she was getting shipped off. Nathan would be alone now, and that bothered her to some degree. No matter how hard he tried with Heidi she seemed intent on making him work even harder. She hoped that one day her half-brothers would be back in this house because Nathan so clearly needed the company of people who were around him because they could be not because they had to be.
She wondered what it was like where her parents and Lyle lived. Was there a beach nearby? And how far were they from Matty and Buffy? And that made her wonder if Buffy had had the baby yet.
She shook her head. She couldn't think like that. That would get her in trouble, because opening that can of worms was totally bringing on trouble. As much as it hurt, and it still did, she was doing what was best for him. His life. Seeking out Matty and Buffy would only hurt him, his chances for a life.
"You going to be all right?" Nathan asked.
"Yeah," she said with a shrug.
Oddly absent through all of this craziness had been Adam. Whether he'd done it intentionally or just truly didn't have a clue what was going on in Claire's life she didn't know. She just knew from time to time she'd wanted to talk to him.
"I mean, it's not like I was going to marry him or anything."
"You never know."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" she spat back in response.
"I meant, you're going to go to college in the fall, you're an adult now, so your father and I really don't have much say so in what you do from this point forward."
"Then why make him leave?"
"Because your father wanted him gone and I wasn't going to argue with him. No matter how close to eighteen you were he wasn't going to budge."
"So, if you'd found out."
"I wouldn't have been happy, but I wouldn't have forbidden it. And I certainly would have told you to level with him about your age."
"Oh God, it was stupid. I just didn't think. I mean, I honestly assumed he knew. You know? I don't think I look old enough to be in college."
"Well, obviously you do because this is how you're going to look from now on if Adam's telling the truth."
"So, I guess my point is. Who knows, maybe your paths will cross again."
"If I was going to college in New York maybe, but Dad's seen to it that won't happen."
"Yeah, he seems to think I don't have enough time to keep an eye on you properly. And maybe he's right, but I somehow suspect my having twenty-four hours a day to give you undivided attention wouldn't have mattered."
"No, not really."
"Well, just don't think it's the end of the line. You never know what life is going to bring. I certainly never thought I'd be sitting here with you."
"But don't close yourself to other possibilities either. There are other guys out there, good ones."
"He was a good guy."
"He may have been, but he's from a shifty family with shifty ties."
"I'm sorry, you're standing here passing judgment on him?"
"Not my place perhaps, but I'm just saying. Don't close your heart off because of one experience that ended badly. They won't all end that way."
"I'll be honest, though, some may end worse."
"Wow, that's so not very helpful."
"Just being honest. Because if I said you'd never hurt like this again I'd be lying, and whatever we have I won't have lies between us."
"I know," she said. "I appreciate that. And I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I just didn't know how. I mean, I didn't even know it had started, you know?"
"I have some recollection of being your age and you coming about because of it."
"Probably more than I need to know."
"Well, at least your father doesn't have that to deal with."
"A baby," he said, eyes taking her in then. "He doesn't, does he?"
"Because you'd know by now if you were."
"Yes, and I'm not."
"All right. That's good because I don't think either one of us are ready to become grandfathers just yet. Just know you can visit. If you want to get away for a weekend or something, I'll arrange it."
"Seems the least I can do."
She had the allotted two bags to take on the plane with her. The rest would be shipped from New York to California. All of her belongings were here. She had nothing in California. She liked to think that her mom and dad had bought some things for her, but as mad as her dad was the last time he saw her she wasn't taking anything for granted. Of course, they'd moved her furniture with them so she would at least have a bed to sleep on and stuff.
She knew it wasn't easy for Nathan to take the day off to get her to the airport. Not to mention the nightmare for airport security to accomodate a senator. However, it enabled her to get through security in a flash so she wasn't going to complain. He even waited at her gate with her until they started boarding her row.
"I'm sorry, Nathan, I really didn't mean for anything like this to happen."
"You have nothing to apologize for. You've got hormones, you were acting on those. Your dad will see that one day, too."
"Hopefully soon or it's going to be a long summer."
"Just be easy on him. I haven't known you all of your life, but I can imagine it's not too easy on him realizing his little girl is grown up enough to make those kinds of decisions."
"You've got Simon and Monty."
"Not the same. Boys are supposed to do that, you know? Girls," he shrugged. "We, fathers I guess, are supposed to protect them from those types of boys."
"But he's not that type of boy."
"I know, well, I don't know, but I believe you when you say he's not. Just understand what he may be thinking, that's all I meant. Your relationship may be different."
"I know," she said, drawing her lower lip in between her teeth. She threw her arms around him as the next series of boarding calls were made.
"Oh, and I have not told him about your fake ID."
"How did you…"
"I may not have known about Taylor, but I knew what you were up to for a while there. I guess because you'd calmed down and stopped going out to places you shouldn't have been I stopped looking for things I should have been seeing."
"Thanks," she said.
"Don't make me regret not telling him."
"In other words, no getting in trouble out in California in places you shouldn't be."
"Just so we're clear."
"I'll see you soon."
"I hope so. Give a kiss to Simon and Monty for me."
"I sure will. And Peter, too."
She blushed a little at that. "Yeah, thanks."
She walked to the gate, handing over her boarding pass and continuing onto the tarmac. She wasn't surprised when she glanced over her shoulder to see he was still standing there. She waved, he did the same and then she continued on.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com