She found the man outside, sitting in the driver's seat of a cab in front of Mrs. Petrelli's house. Her grandmother's house. It was still odd for her to think she had a grandmother. She'd never stopped to think that her birth parents would have, well, parents of their own. A family and stuff. She had an uncle! She had brothers!
An uncle and brothers who didn't want her. Or wouldn't want her once they realized she could be the chink in the armor that was the perfect Petrelli persona. Paris. Who the hell wanted to go to Paris? She'd just gotten to New York. She planned on staying!
First things first. She needed to find out what happened with Peter. No one seemed to understand she'd fled the Haitian, risked everything to come here to see him. Someone had to appreciate that, and by the look in the man's eyes she thought she might find that someone in him.
She placed her hand on the door so he couldn't shut it without closing it on her fingers.
"She didn't mean anything by that. I'm sure she's just upset."
Claire shrugged. "No, I just met her."
He laughed softly. "Me, too."
"Yeah, I got that." She extended her free hand to him. "I'm Claire Bennet."
His eyes snapped to attention then, keen and wise, assessing her as he shook her offered hand. "Mohinder Suresh. I believe I've met your father."
"Well, I have two, but since only one is willing to claim me, I'll assume you're talking about him."
"From Texas. Works for The Company?"
"All I know is he works for a paper company, but yeah, that's him."
"I'm completing the research my father started. Trying to at any rate. He had me remove your name from my list."
"He did?" She sounded incredibly hopeful just then. It was yet another reminder that while she was jumping to the wrong conclusion that he was betraying her, he was protecting her. He had protected her all along, even when she didn't know she needed protecting.
"Yes. I wouldn't remember your name otherwise. There are so many."
His eyes got bright. "Are you busy?"
"Are you doing something right now?"
"Well, no. I'm sure she's going to be sitting in there with Peter, not letting me see him even though I came here to see him."
"Her son's dead."
"I know. I appreciate that. I just," she shrugged with a deep sigh. "It's been a long couple of weeks."
"Tell me about it." He leaned toward the passenger side door and opened it. "Get in."
"I'll bring you back later. There's something I want to show you."
She glanced behind her at her grandmother's house. She bit her lower lip, trying to decide what she should do. This man might have answers for her. Not just about Peter, but about her. Her father. Everything. Should she tell her grandmother she was leaving?
"She probably won't even notice I'm gone," she said, jogging around the car to get in.
He told her what had happened with Peter while he drove.
"So that guy that was in Texas after me?"
"I don't get it."
"I don't either. It seems where Peter can absorb powers without hurting others, Sylar cannot. Or just chooses not to. I'm not sure yet. He does seem to enjoy it. I can attest to that first hand."
She looked at him then, noticing that he was hurt, too.
"You have no powers?"
"I'm not special, no. I'm just a man. A professor."
"But you're smart, right?"
"Some would say so, yes."
"And your father came up with this theory? He found us?"
As they talked, her eyes were constantly moving, taking in the sights of New York City as they passed by. She'd never been here before. It was so big, busy, and noisy.
"I'd say that's special. To be smart. So, what's with the cab?"
He chuckled. "A man has to have a job."
"You're a professor you said."
"Back home, not here. I came here after my father died. I really wasn't planning on staying."
"Didn't we just pass this?"
"Yes, I'm making sure no one's following me."
"My father was a smart man, too. He always knew that people would be interested in his research. My apartment is in shambles."
"Huh." What more could she say?
It was a house he led her to. He searched for a few minutes for the right key before unlocking the door. "Sorry, I've only been here once before, and never inside so."
"It's okay," she said with an uncertain smile. Just what was she doing? She didn't know this man, and she just went with him! She had no idea where she was. No one knew where she was or who she'd left with. She was an idiot. Had she learned nothing with Brody?
"I'm not going to hurt you, Claire."
"Was it that obvious?"
"Yes, sorry. This was my father's backup. I never had reason to come here until now. I didn't want to. After I've shown you these things I won't come back again unless I need to."
They ascended the steps and opened the door leading to an apartment, flipping on the light.
"Yes, everything is current. My father owned the building. I always wondered why he lived in the apartment. It was a cover. This place is in a different name and he rents out the units, including this one. Well, on paper."
"So, no one realizes the owner actually lives in a tiny apartment upstairs?"
"Right. Paranoid, perhaps, but it turned out he had reason to be."
"Don't the other tenants wonder where this neighbor is?"
"Apparently, my father thought of that, too, and left word that it's someone who travels extensively. He paid someone to come here once in a while."
"He was odd perhaps, but he had reason to be careful."
He showed her then. The map, the records, the papers, everything, and explained to her what he knew. He simpled it up some for her, which was nice of him. It was still way over her head. Basically, she got that there was some sort of gene connecting them all.
"But we're not all related?"
"No. All blue-eyed people are not related."
"Oh, right," she nodded, understanding when it was explained like that. "So, who pays for the stuff? The lights? Water and stuff?"
"A law firm. They don't even know who really owns it."
"I guess you do now, right?"
His eyes met hers, and she saw he was sad. "Yeah, I guess so."
"I'm sorry. You lost your dad and you got thrown into this."
"I wasn't thrown into it. I chose to come here, chose to stay. And now with Sylar on the loose." She noticed he winced slightly when he moved wrong. There was dried blood all over him, too. She wasn't sure how much of it was his and how much was Peter's.
"Is the bathroom stocked?"
"Have you looked in a mirror lately?"
"No, I'm afraid my vanity has not been first on my mind."
"Well, you look like shit."
He grimaced. "You shouldn't talk like that."
"Look at yourself!"
He walked down the short hallway, disappearing through the doorway followed by a light coming on.
"You're right," he called out.
"I told you. So, do you have stuff here?"
"Yeah, I'll be out in a few minutes."
"Okay," she called and went to the map. Her fingertip grazed the pin that represented her. He'd removed her from the list but not from the map. Then again, he hadn't come here until today so of course he wouldn't have.
It took him a little longer than a few minutes to shower and get cleaned up. She was right, as offensive as it sounded coming from her mouth. He had looked like shit. A shower did wonders, though his clothes still left something to be desired. His father had clothes here, but they didn't fit Mohinder. The best he had come up with was keeping his pants and donning one of his father's shirts.
He was working the buttons on it as he joined Claire in what would be construed to normal people as the living room. It was his father's office, though neater than the one elsewhere in the city. Unlived in. The apartment was small. Perusing the documents his father had left behind, he had intentionally made this apartment the smallest so that the other one upstairs would seem larger and therefore rent.
"What happens if the lawyers run out of money?"
"They have a number in India they're to call."
"So, this stuff is safe."
"Yes. I'll go back to my apartment after dropping you back at the Petrelli's, but I wanted to show you these things."
"Why not just take me to your apartment?"
"Because it's a mess. Blood and," he shrugged. "I didn't think you would want to see it."
"You and Peter?"
"No, nothing like that. He saved my life. I'm just sorry I was too late to return the favor."
"It's not your fault. If anything, it's mine! I got so caught up in my research I failed to pay attention, allowing Sylar to get free."
"He's good at what he does. He's gotten away with it for how long now?"
"I still can't help but feel responsible. So many. I should have."
She turned to him then, placing her hand on his forearm. "Don't. There's nothing you could have done. Peter came to Texas knowing he was going to die. I didn't know him, but even I got that was just the kind of person he was. He wouldn't want you to blame yourself. He'd be glad to know you're still alive, able to continue the research. And, hopefully, stop Sylar."
"I'll find a way to stop him."
"It'll be dangerous."
"You're talking to someone who can heal herself." With that, her face lit up as if the light had suddenly gone on. He frowned, wondering what she could possibly be thinking right now to give her that look. "Do you have a cell phone? And do you still have the piece of paper you said you found in Peter's wallet?"
"Yes. What are you thinking?"
"I just thought of something. You said Peter absorbs powers, right. So, his power that he got from me is like mine?"
"Well," she said. He watched, somewhat entranced as she nibbled her lower lip. "Just let me make this call. I don't want to say anything in case it doesn't work."
"Okay," he said, thoroughly confused.
"I, um, could you dial the number for me?"
"Thanks, I don't know if you need to dial a 1 first or anything."
"Oh, right." He entered the number and handed her the phone. "Just hit the send button."
"Mrs. Petrelli. This is Claire Bennet."
"Yes, I'm sorry. I know I just left without saying anything. I, what? He is? Oh," she said, and the brightness that he had seen in her face just moments ago was gone. She looked both scared and sad.
"Can you check something for me?"
"Please, don't ask me any questions. Look at Peter's head, the back of it. See if there's something there. In it."
"Yes, in his head."
"A shard of glass," Mohinder whispered. "Sylar attacked him with glass shards."
"A shard of glass," Claire repeated. "If you find anything, take it out."
"Yes, take it out. Please, Mrs. Petrelli, just. No, no, I'll wait, please."
She slid the phone to the front of her sweater. "Peter's brother is checking now."
"I don't understand."
"I died once," she whispered, bringing the phone back up to her ear.
"What?" She'd died? The very idea was abhorrent to him. "The night Peter?"
"No, a different time. It wasn't a psychotic killer after me, just the captain of the football team."
"I'm not sure I know what you mean." He was thoroughly confused. She'd escaped from Sylar but a mere human who had no special abilities had managed to do what Sylar could not?
"I hadn't thought about it until now, but if what you said is true. A branch was stuck in the back of my head. The, whatever you call the people who do autopsies."
"Yeah. It must have been when she removed it that I was revived."
"You were revived after an autopsy?"
"Yeah. And can I just say, ew?" She scrunched her nose, running her fingers along her torso where the Y-incision would have been. He couldn't even imagine how horrifying that must have been.
"Yes, I think an ew is allowed in such circumstances."
"Thanks," she lifted up her finger as she nodded and smiled, the brightness back in her eyes again. "He did?" She looked at Mohinder then. "It worked."
"He's alive?" he asked.
"He's alive?" Claire echoed, smiling with a nod. "No, I'm safe and fine, I'm with Mohinder. The guy who brought Peter to your house."
"I'll have him bring me back soon. Will Nathan still be there?"
He heard the uncertainty in her voice as she asked the question. He was curious what was behind it.
"Bye, Mrs. Petrelli. No, you're welcome, I'm sorry I didn't think of it sooner."
"He's fine, and he's asking to see me."
"I'm sure he is. It was as simple as that then?"
"I guess so. She said it was a rather large piece of glass."
"Yes, they were quite large. I can't tell you how much better I feel."
"I'm sure. I know I do, and I wasn't there, didn't see it happen." She gave him his phone back. "Thanks."
"You're thanking me? You saved a man's life. I should be thanking you."
"I should have thought of it sooner. I just, I don't like to think about that night. You know? And, well, I wasn't alive for it, so I didn't remember until just now. The last thing I remember is falling, my head hit something. And then I woke up on that table. I wouldn't have even thought about it, but the branch stump was right there and I could feel the wound in my head heal."
"You've nothing to apologize for, Claire. You did a wonderful thing by remembering. I'm sure Mrs. Petrelli and both of her sons will feel quite indebted to you."
"Yeah, well, I wouldn't be so sure about that."
"I should get you back there. Peter's asking for you and I've kept you away long enough."
"Are you okay?"
"I am now."
"No, I meant," she took a step toward him and ran her fingers along his face. "Are you okay? Do you need help? A doctor? Anything?"
"No, I'll be fine. Nothing a few days rest won't fix. I'll just have to be careful not to drive my cab over any potholes too fast."
She chuckled. "Okay, if you're sure."
"Positive. Thank you for your concern."
"Next time, you'll have to tell me what brought you to New York. I talked your ear off about all of this stuff, I'm sure it was boring."
"No, it was kind of interesting, actually. And it made me feel better," she said, following as he led them to the door and out of the apartment.
He locked the door, wondering if he'd ever have need to come back here. His father had been smart to use the apartment Mohinder now lived in as his primary residence. No one would think a cab driver could afford a home, not one as nice as this one was. It was well maintained. The lawyers his father had hired to maintain the place did it well. He was impressed.
"Why did it make you feel better?"
"I know I'm not alone. All of those pins."
"And that's not all of them. I'm sure there are more."
"Well, it's just nice knowing I'm not the only freak out there."
"You are not a freak, Claire. You're special."
"Someone else said that. Well, something like that."
"Whoever it was, they were right. Before I forget. Did you mean what you said up there? You want to help?"
"You know I do. He killed my friend not to mention all of the people I don't know, and Peter."
"I'll give you my number then. After I drop you off I'm going back to my apartment to clean it up. Call me when you're ready to help. I assume you'll be spending some time with the Petrelli's."
"Yeah, I'm kind of like their guest right now."
"Long story. I'll explain another time," she said, getting into the cab while he did the same.
"I can't wait."
With that, he started the cab and headed back where they'd started from. Odd how things can change in a matter of moments. He'd questioned bringing Peter to his mother, but as fate would have it, it saved Peter's life. And at the same time, he'd managed to increase his number of hands by two more. He'd need all that he could get to bring Sylar down. It was going to take as many as he could find.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com